Trying to tank? Don’t acquire Kelly Olynyk

Few NBA teams have leaned quite as hard into a tank as the Utah Jazz did this offseason.

Jazz GM Justin Zanik sent away defensive superstar Rudy Gobert and high-scoring combo guard Donovan Mitchell in a pair of trades this summer, acquiring a litany of draft compensation for the foreseeable future.

The deal also put Utah in a position to ‘tank’ this season in the hopes of landing the top pick in the 2023 NBA draft, where they could draft future franchise cornerstone Victor Wembanyama. Scoot Henderson, the presumed No. 2 pick, is an incredible prize himself, making this a draft worth tanking for.

Zanik and CEO Danny Ainge didn’t account for everything when putting together a tank-worthy roster, however: they forgot about the anti-tank commander, former Gonzaga big man Kelly Olynyk.

Two NBA teams have now rostered former Gonzaga big man Kelly Olynyk to help lead the tank: the Houston Rockets in 20-21, and now the Jazz. In both situations, Olynyk played the best basketball of his career, quite literally leading Utah to victory by hitting a game-winning shot on Sunday evening against the Pelicans:

Through four games this season, Olynyk is averaging 15.5 points, 3.8 rebounds, and 3.8 assists. He is shooting a blistering 78.6% from three on the year, higher than his two-point and free throw percentage on the young campaign.

In 27 games with the Rockets after coming over at the 2021 trade deadline, Olynyk averaged 19 points, 8.4 rebounds, and 4.1 assists while shooting 39.2% from deep and 64.3% on twos. It was the best stretch of his career, although the Rockets managed just a 5-22 record during his tenure with the team.

Tanking is a delicate balance. No one expects the players to not try their hardest to win every basketball game they take part in. Coaches and fans aren’t in the building to lose either, so it is about building a roster that may not win a lot of games – but will at least provide excitement or intrigue for the fans.

Utah is 3-1 and in second place in the Western Conference, behind a surprisingly excellent Portland squad that is 4-0 for the first time since 1999.

Olynyk and former Arizona forward Lauri Markkanen have been excellent so far this season for Utah. While this team probably won’t be in serious contention for a playoff spot by the end of the year, it sure looks like the frontcourt will keep them more competitive than initially expected.

Olynyk and the Jazz will take on Gobert and the T-Wolves Wednesday afternoon, starting at 6:00 PM.

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