NBA training camps begin this week as the Jazz held their media day sessions Monday and officially began camp today. While several questions were fired at Jazz players, coaches and front office personnel on media day yesterday, there are a few questions that remain to be answered.
What will be the outcome of the Raja Bell situation?
Bell is officially still a member of the Utah Jazz. Unofficially, he’s no longer a part of the team. He still takes up a roster spot, but he was told to stay away from training camp, as if he carries a fatal virus and needs to be contained by isolation so he can’t cause further harm to the human race.
Last week, new Jazz General Manager Dennis Lindsey issued a statement on the predicament, saying “I have spoken with Raja and his representative, Herb Rudoy, and we have mutually agreed that although Raja remains under contract, it is in the best interest of all parties that he not re-join the team next week when the Jazz begins training camp.”
Bell will be collecting a check from the organization and filling a valuable roster spot until the Jazz and Bell come to terms on a buyout or the Jazz simply pay him and cut him. It is possible that he remains on the roster all year but never makes an appearance, though that is not likely to happen. Either way, the team needs to resolve this situation sooner than later.
Who will be in the starting lineup?
There are several scenarios that will probably be explored by Tyrone Corbin over the next month of preseason as he prepares his team for the start of the regular season.
Mo Williams will be the starting point guard unless he gets hurt, and Al Jefferson will probably start the season at center, but every other starting job is up for grabs.
Alec Burks, Gordon Hayward and Randy Foye will be in the mix for the starting two-guard spot. Hayward will also be in a battle with Marvin Williams for the small forward position.
The biggest battle might be at power forward, where Paul Millsap, the team’s best overall player, and Derrick Favors, the best defensive player and brightest potential superstar, will play each other for the starter spot.
Corbin could surprise us all and start both of them along side Jefferson with Millsap at the three, which was the best rebounding, most efficient, and best defensive lineup late last season. Even Enes Kanter could be in the mix for the starting center role if he has made considerable improvements to his offensive game and has gained a tighter grasp on the Jazz’s team defense philosophy.
Will the Jazz make the playoffs for a second year in a row?
Obviously we won’t know the answer to this question for a long time, but on paper the Jazz have clearly improved since last season’s first round playoff sweep at the hands of the San Antonio Spurs.
The Jazz have vastly improved their perimeter shooting by adding Williams and Foye, as well the anticipated improvement of Hayward’s shooting game.
Factoring in the expected improvement of all the youngsters, from Favors and Kanter in the front court to Burks and Hayward on the perimeter, the Jazz jump a few more notches on the improvement scale.
The fact that Jefferson, Millsap and Mo Williams are in the final years of their contracts could also prove to make the team better as each player could put up career numbers as they play for new deals, though it’s possible they all became selfish and tarnish the team’s chemistry.
The biggest obstacle in making the playoffs again is that several other teams in the West improved as well. The Timberwolves and Warriors both missed the playoffs but are much better teams this year after adding solid veterans to their squads. The Hornets and Rockets could surprise teams as well, which could make it difficult for the Jazz to make the playoffs.
My prediction is the Jazz will make the playoffs with a 48-34 record.