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6 storylines to watch as the Jazz start training camp

Utah Jazz's Donovan Mitchell (45) celebrates with Rudy Gobert (27) during the first half of the team's NBA basketball game against the Chicago Bulls Monday, March 22, 2021, in Chicago.

Utah Jazz's Donovan Mitchell (45) celebrates with Rudy Gobert (27) during the first half of the team's NBA basketball game against the Chicago Bulls Monday, March 22, 2021, in Chicago. (Paul Beaty, Associated Press)



Estimated read time: 5-6 minutes

SALT LAKE CITY — That was quick.

Next week, the Utah Jazz will convene for training camp in Las Vegas on Sept. 28 to start preparations for the 2021-22 season, bringing an end to what was a short offseason.

After a few days in Vegas, the team will return to Salt Lake City in preparation for the preseason opener at San Antonio on Oct. 4. It wasn't gone for long, but basketball will be back very soon.

Here are the things that we'll be looking for during the lead up to the season:

Will Mike Conley and Donovan Mitchell be healthy?

The last we saw the Jazz's backcourt duo, they were limping their way through a season-ending Game 6 defeat on June 18. That has given the All-Star backcourt over three months to heal.

After re-signing with the Jazz in August, Conley said he was feeling "really good" and that his offseason training regime was focused on preventing the hamstring issues that have plagued him during his two seasons in Utah.

He said he had implemented more yoga and stretching — along with specific strength exercises — in the hopes of keeping himself healthy.

"I'm excited about the year, I really am," Conley said. "I think it's gonna be a good healthy one."

As for Mitchell, there's no reason to think the sprained ankle he re-aggravated during the playoffs will cause him any trouble after an offseason — albeit a short one — to rest.

What will Jared Butler's role be?

There's no shortage of intrigue when it comes to Butler. He was a sure-fire first-round prospect right up until he fell to Utah at No. 40 due to concerns about his health. The obvious question surrounding him will be the health issues, which were never a concern at Baylor, but will it hold him back at the NBA level? The Jazz don't seem to think so, but they still held him out of Summer League as a precaution.

Training camp, then, becomes Butler's chance to make a good first impression.

Skill wise, Butler brings a lot to the table. He can run the pick and roll, shoot, and defend well on the perimeter. His game appears to be a near-perfect fit for the Jazz; there's a reason Utah was absolutely ecstatic he was there at No. 40, after all.

Jazz head coach Quin Snyder hasn't been afraid to throw rookies into the mix early if they prove worthy, with Donovan Mitchell being the most obvious example. Butler won't be Mitchell, but that doesn't mean he still can't earn time.

Butler's NBA success won't be determined during training camp, but it might show if he's ready to contribute immediately.

What are the plans for the backcourt?

Last season, Utah predominately used a mix of Conley, Mitchell and Joe Ingles to initiate the offense and run pick and roll action. All three of those guys are back, but change may be in order — and it may be helpful in the long run.

Ingles wore down toward the end of the season, and Conley and Mitchell both had injuries. The best thing for the Jazz is for Mitchell and Conley to run things, but it might prove beneficial to give them more breaks to help keep them fresh for games that really matter in the postseason. Utah looks to have more options to do that this season.

Trent Forrest really impressed during Summer League play and if Butler shows he's ready, he provides another option at point guard.

How will Rudy Gay fit in?

Rudy Gay has made a career of adjusting his game to fit in with whatever team he's on. He was once a high-scoring shooting guard; and years later, he will likely be asked to play some small-ball five.

"I think at this point in the game, and how it's changed, you need guys that can play multiple positions," Gay said. "I've changed my game to be that. I'm a bigger guy that can guard multiple positions; that's what it's about nowadays in the playoffs."

Gay's versatility is what makes him a valuable addition. He's big enough to handle most low-post matchups and he shoots well enough from 3 that teams have to respect him. He checks a lot of the boxes the Jazz were looking for in an incoming player.

"No disrespect to anybody that was on the team before, because obviously they're my teammates and I love them and the team hasn't changed much, but to just have a guy that can go and play multiple positions, I think is very, very valuable at this point," Gay said.

The one question: How much can he actually play? At 35, Gay is the oldest player on the Jazz, and that could limit how big of a role he has.

What will Quin Snyder change?

There were glimpses of it during the 2020 restart in the bubble, but last season Snyder reworked his team into an offensive juggernaut. The Jazz shot 3s early and often and set multiple shooting records along the way.

Will there be more twists this season?

Gay gives Snyder a player he rarely has: a true stretch big that could open up the offense even more. Rudy Gobert also showed during France's Olympic run that he can seal smaller defenders in the post in order to score down low. That's something the Jazz have rarely experimented with in the past. Will that change this season?

Will Utah fill its final roster spot?

Utah enters training camp with one free roster spot. But don't expect a battle to take place for that final spot.

It's more than likely the Jazz will save space on the roster for some flexibility at both the trade deadline and in the buyout market. While there's always the chance a camp player could impress enough to earn a full contract, that seems even less likely after the Jazz solidified both of their two-way players before camp even started by signing former Wyoming standout Justin James to a two-way deal.

James joins Forrest as the two-way players. Honestly, if you are looking for a player to earn a spot on the standard roster, it may be Forrest. Under his current deal, he'll only be allowed to appear in 50 games this season.

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