There are NBA teams heading into the 2020-21 season with hopes of winning a championship. Anything less than a title would be a disappointment.
The Utah Jazz are not one of those teams.
As the Jazz make their way to the truncated, bizarre December training camp, they do so with the understanding of who they are – a team that has seen a first- or second-round playoff exit for four straight years.
Gradually, the Jazz tried to make moves that would orient them towards a race to the finals. This season, after one of Jazz’s best offensive years in recent history, the team will be hopeful that bringing Derrick Favors back into the fold, having a healthy Bojan Bogdanovic and focusing again on defense will help the team. to move to a higher level.
It’s not that Jazz doesn’t have championship aspirations. They dream of holding the Larry O’Brien Championship Trophy as much as any other team, but they don’t go into the season saying anything less is a failure.
Instead, they’re starting the 2020-21 season ready and willing to learn from the product they’ve developed. As the old saying goes, the bullet doesn’t lie.
“The competition always tells us the truth,” Jazz executive vice president of basketball operations Dennis Lindsey said Monday. “Having said that, we are very confident with the group that we have put together.”
The biggest question the Jazz will be looking to answer at the start of the 2020-21 season is: did they do enough to strengthen their defense?
The first order of business is to get everyone through the initial testing protocols and come back to the field in a group setting. This will happen sometime next week, when the team’s medics will also be able to comment on the progress of Bogdanovic’s recovery.
After undergoing right wrist surgery in May, Bogdanovic is preparing for a comeback this season. For the past few weeks he’s been in Utah and been able to train individually, with Jazz’s front office reporting that everything from those one-on-one sessions has been promising and successful.
If the team’s medics determine that Bogdanovic is ready for full contact action, then he will be in the thick of it. If doctors think it needs to increase slowly or be careful, they’ll take a more tempered approach.
Then the Jazz will assess if the moves they made during the offseason will be enough to lift the team.
The moves were small and subtle and rely heavily on the idea that continuity and familiarity may matter more than ever this season.
With a quick turnaround between the 2020 playoffs and the start of the upcoming season, as well as the fact that many teams and players and rookies haven’t played competitively since March, the Jazz are banking on the fact that they won’t. ‘Will only have minor integration issues to face since Favors is so familiar with the Jazz system and culture. Rookies will take a while to develop and learn the ins and outs of NBA life, but the Jazz have a strong nine-man rotation that won’t have any significant learning curve.
âWe’re kind of moving past some of the criticisms of the smaller markets by having some continuity,â Lindsey said.
The continuity with which the team begins the season will in fact allow the Jazz to assess its position in the NBA quite quickly.
Last season, the Jazz knew it would take time to find out how Bogdanovic, Mike Conley, Ed Davis and Jeff Green would fit into Quin Snyder’s system and whether they would be able to thrive.
This time around, the Jazz pretty much know what they’re getting and will be looking at whether the addition of Favors and the development of internal players is enough to stabilize the defense in any meaningful way.
âA lot of that falls on the incumbents,â Lindsey said.
Being able to assess the strengths and weaknesses of the roster at the start of the season will give the Jazz a plan for how to deal with the roster in the future, whether between now and the trade deadline, or after the end of this season.