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SALT LAKE CITY — In some ways, Malik Fitts is the last man standing.
On Thursday, the Jazz announced they had waived Derrick Alston Jr., Marques Bolden and MaCio Teague, leaving Fitts as the lone training camp invitee left on the roster (The Jazz also signed Nino Johnson on Thursday, but he's expected to be waived and then play for the Salt Lake City Stars).
So what does that mean for the prospect that shot 83% from 3-point range in Utah's four preseason contests?
On Monday, the Jazz will announce their final roster for the 2021-22 season. There's not a lot of intrigue when it comes to the roster. Utah has 13 players on fully guaranteed contracts with Miye Oni's deal becoming fully guaranteed in January.
That means the Jazz have one regular roster spot available, along with a two-way spot freed up after the team waived Justin James after he spent just a little over a week with the team. Little information was released about James' quick hook, but could the Jazz have liked what they saw from another young player in camp?
The 23-year-old guard averaged 3.8 points in limited minutes during Utah's four preseason games where he shot 5-of-6 from 3-point range. Yes, that's a very small sample, but Fitts also hit over 40% from 3 in two seasons at Saint Mary's.
Fitts also earned praise for his defensive effort during the preseason, especially after he was put in to check Luka Doncic against Dallas. Did Doncic score on Fitts? Sure, but Fitts made him work.
"I felt I was able to show my defensive versatility," Fitts said of his preseason performance. "Also being able to shoot the 3 ball, that's something that's big here. Also, defending, that's something that I want to make sure that I continue to keep getting better at, just because it helps the team, in the long run and everything.
"In the long run, eh? Maybe Fitts knows something a little early. As it stands, it's unlikely that Fitts will take Utah's last roster spot. The Jazz are in full-on contender mode and will want to keep the roster spot open in order to be a player in the buy-out market. But Fitts is the favorite to land the second two-way deal.
A player on a two-way contract can be on the active roster for up to 50 games during the regular season. The Jazz, though, don't have to sign a two-way player right away.
Even with the uncertainty, Fitts says he feels good leading up into Monday's decision day.
"You wait a long time just to figure out what's about to end up happening and you just gotta wait until you get that final decision to let it all sink in, but I've been enjoying the journey the whole time," Fitts said.
Especially after a trying summer. Fitts caught COVID-19 as he was getting ready for summer league. That meant he couldn't play and missed out on the chance of impressing front offices. So he's been relishing every part of the opportunity he's gotten with Utah.
"Just being really and being able to show up and play a sport that I love," Fitts said. "That's like the best thing right there, just being able to play basketball with a bunch of guys at the highest level. It was like a dream come true."
Does he think he's done enough for that dream to continue?
"I do, but it's up to the front office's decision," he said. "I'll just sit back and wait."