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Jazz playoff push: Is postseason better or worse for franchise?

Published: Sunday, April 22 2012 10:44 p.m. MDT

Utah's Gordon Hayward watches as the Utah Jazz and the San Antonio Spurs play NBA basketball Monday, April 9, 2012, in Salt Lake City, Utah.

Tom Smart, Deseret News

The Utah Jazz are in a playoff push that few figured they'd be in this season (not including this back-patting writer, thank you). Strangely, Jazzland has mixed reactions to this potential playoff run.

Many fans are as giddy as can be. For them, Tuesday's play-in game can't get here quickly enough.

For others, this unexpected success is inconvenient timing. It risks denying the organization a spot in a loaded lottery.

Ah, the conundrum. Would it be better for the Utah Jazz to beat the Phoenix Suns and make the playoffs or lose and benefit from the deep draft?

1.Jazz Could Be In Or Out

Usually, fans are 100 percent behind their team making the playoffs. This year, however, is a bit different. If the Jazz get in the postseason, the T-Wolves will get their first-round pick as part of the 2010 Al Jefferson deal. Utah protected its 2012 draft selection, so it keeps its lottery pick if the team doesn't make the playoffs.

(Side note: The Jazz still could get into the lottery, but that would require Golden State to lose Tanking War 2012. Shockingly, the Warriors showed life Sunday, rallying to beat the Tankingwolves to snap an eight-game losing streak. Golden State will keep its protected pick if it's in the top seven after the ping pong balls are plucked. It's Utah's if it's between 8-14 as a result of the Deron Williams deal.)

2. The Company Line

You can guess in which camp Jazz coach Tyrone Corbin would rather cook s'mores and pitch a tent.

"You always want to compete to win," Corbin said. "From a player's standpoint, you don't want to go out there with an intention of doing anything other than winning a ballgame — that's competing and growing and understanding how to play in different situations."

Corbin is among those who believe the experience gained by playing in pre-playoff, pressure-packed moments, which the Jazz have been in for a while, outweigh the unknown results of getting a low-end lottery pick. The experience in the playoffs then will provide a building block to the future as Utah tries to grow upon previous postseason results.

Added Corbin: "We need to make sure that we continue to develop and understand the attitude of what it's going to take to be successful at this time of year."

This is Jazz general manager Kevin O'Connor's opinion on tanking:

"How would you explain to these guys on this team that? What would you say, 'Hey, guys, we'll get it next year?'" O'Connor said. "Does that give them an excuse not to play and practice? Does that give them an excuse not to compete in games? Yeah, sure.

"To me, if you did that," O'Connor added, "I don't know how you ever get a team back. You'd have to get rid of everybody and have another team come out."

3. Culture Of Winning, Not Lotterying

It'd be nice to add another high pick to the potential-packed squad — most can agree on that. But the Jazz have gotten into the playoffs in 24 of the past 28 years by playing to win games — of the non-lottery nature.

"The culture," O'Connor said, "was developed by Larry (Miller) and John (Stockton) and Karl (Malone) and Jerry (Sloan) that, hey, go out and play and let the chips fall where they may."

That's also why Corbin has stuck with veteran players while gradually incorporating promising young guys into rotations.

"You can still win and develop," O'Connor said. "Trying to get the first pick in the draft is not something that we would ever aspire to."

O'Connor sold his bosses on the idea that it's not an either-or situation when it comes to allowing youngsters to grow and winning games. Likewise, he's not about to sacrifice this season in order to set up a nice draft pick this offseason, especially because Utah has a $10.7 million trade exception it can use in wheeling and dealing.

"Give the Millers credit. We explained to them what we were trying to do — instead of getting a high draft pick, we wanted to try to win," O'Connor said. "And fortunately, we've been able to do some of that. There's a couple of chapters hopefully still to be written."

4. Fans Speak Out

I find the thought of rooting against your team's success to be baffling — especially when only a low-end lottery pick is at stake. Here were some of the reactions Jazz fans had on Twitter after I tweeted that out:

@ptruman: "Experience is a lot more important to current players. And if (you're) good enough to make playoffs, why worry about lottery picks."

@1234BBS: "Playoffs better in short run. Lottery better in long run. Simple business. Not fan analysis."

@djdarenc: "I think it is the allure of magic of lottery. The thought of our ping pong ball being 1st or way up there. My vote is for the PLAYOFFS."

@bryancella: "You can't be a championship team (until you're) a playoff team. Putting ALL your hope in draft is fools gold."

@jaredeborn: "A 15 pick in 2012 is probably the talent equivalent of a 6 pick in 2011."

@pchip12: "Regardless if we tanked or not, Jazz would still need to trade up to get a difference maker draft pick."

And coleman51 gave this relevant comment on deseretnews.com, "Fans may be cheering that the Jazz have positioned themselves for a playoff spot, but behind the scenes, this may turn out to be one of the most disastrous seasons in Utah Jazz history. ... As far as building for the future, that will come to a dead halt."

5. A Final Thought

@DJJazzyJody: It's possible the Jazz will get the best of both worlds. First, their team will gain invaluable experience while making the playoffs. Then, as some have suggested in the social-media sphere, karma will strike Golden State if it truly has been tanking and it either will finish with the eighth-worst record or get leapfrogged, pushing its pick out of the top seven and into Utah's lap.

Tuesday vs. Phoenix, 8:30 p.m., TNT

Thursday vs. Portland, 6 p.m., ROOT

Friday at ESA or ZBBC

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