Congratulations to the tanking Utah Jazz on another unwinning season, which tankfully will end Sunday night, and not a minute too soon. Sure, they messed up and won a game Thursday night, accidentally blowing a perfectly good 13-game losing streak, but you know what they say, you can’t lose ‘em all.

If at first you don’t fail, try, try again.

The Jazz own a 30-50 record with two games remaining. With any luck, they can get back to their losing ways by giving it the old college untry.

Which of course was the point of this farcical season. And the one before that. Lose.

As everyone knows, the Jazz tanked the season in a scheme to collect higher draft picks. Again. In February, when they saw that they were still winning games despite their best unefforts — the Jazz were 26-26 at the time — they held a fire sale for the second time in two years and sent three more of their core players packing (how dare they win games!). Anyway, it worked — the Jazz proceeded to lose 24 of 28 games.

The Jazz could’ve done better — or should we say worse? The Grizzlies (53 losses), Raptors (55), Trail Blazers (59), Hornets (60), Spurs (60), Wizards (65) and Pistons (67) all out-lost them.

If you’re going to do something, do it wrong or don’t do it at all.

As tank jobs go, the Jazz uneffort fell short of greatness. During the 2002-03 season, the Cavaliers managed to lose 65 games — now there was some tanking — to put themselves in position to draft LeBron James, who eventually won one world championship with the franchise.

That worked out pretty well.

Like the Jazz, they weren’t subtle about it. They traded away top players and cut playing time for their all-star center and played an undrafted guard to pull it off. Coach John Lucas later said he was ordered to play young players. And then he got fired that same season.

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The 1982-83 Rockets also turned in a Hall of Fame tank job by losing 68 games against 14 accidental wins to set up their selection of Ralph Sampson with the first pick of the draft. A year later, they were still bad enough to win the first draft pick again, which they used to select Hakeem Olajuwon, who won two NBA championships.

That worked out pretty well.

Then there were the 1996-97 Spurs who worked hard to lose 62 games, putting them in position to draft the great Tim Duncan, who won five league championships.

That worked out pretty well.

Tanking pays.

Unlike any other team sport, basketball fortunes can turn dramatically with the addition of just one player, which is why tanking is such a big problem in the NBA. The 2022-23 season was a race to the bottom for several teams trying to put themselves in position to draft 7-foot-4 Frenchman Victor Wembanyama. The Spurs won the race and made him the first pick of the draft.

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The NBA has made a few ineffectual attempts to stop tanking. In 2023, the league fined the Dallas Mavericks $750,000 for tanking the last game of the season to retain a lottery pick (they benched five players and played superstar Luka Doncic just 12 minutes). The Mavericks decided to tank the game even though they needed just one win to qualify for the play-in tournament.

The league released a statement that said the Mavericks had “demonstrated through actions and public statements the organization’s desire to lose the game in order to improve the chances of keeping its first-round pick in the 2023 NBA draft.”

The league changed the draft to a lotto system a long time ago (1985) to try to dissuade teams from tanking, using a draw for non-playoff teams to determine the first four picks. It has done nothing to deter tanking, and there’s really nothing that can be done to stop it as long as there’s a draft.

Like other sports, the NBA goes to great lengths to punish players who gamble on games because it could influence outcomes and taint the integrity of the games, and yet the league can’t stop tanking, a systemic, legalized method of throwing games that teams don’t even attempt to disguise.

The Jazz have now tanked for two seasons. In 2022, the year after the team posted the best record in the league, they traded away their five best players for 11 first-round draft picks. The Jazz lost 45 games. Two months ago, a little more than a year after Tanking I, they traded away three more players on the eve of the trade deadline to give the team two more first-round picks. Before that happened, the Jazz were contending for a playoff spot, sitting at .500 with less than one-third of the season remaining to be played and having won 12 of 14 games during one stretch.

Somewhere, the late Jerry Sloan, the team’s Hall of Fame coach, is pacing the floor and tearing his hair out. He wouldn’t bench a healthy player even to rest him for the playoffs, let alone tank a game or an entire season.

Utah Jazz fans react during the NBA game between the Utah Jazz and the Cleveland Cavaliers at the Delta Center in Salt Lake City on Tuesday, April 2, 2024. | Megan Nielsen, Deseret News