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Jazz Mailbag: A shortened season could mean more rest for the stars and more opportunity for others

FILE — Utah Jazz guard Miye Oni (81) shoots the ball against Denver Nuggets forward Keita Bates-Diop (6) in Game 2 of an NBA basketball first-round playoff series, Wednesday, Aug. 19, 2020, in Lake Buena Vista, Fla.
Kim Klement, Pool Photo via AP

In less than a week the NBA will be back in action with the preseason and the regular season is right around the corner. With that, we turn to the fans to find out what questions they have as the shortened training camp continues.

The schedule is daunting. There’s 72 games in a shortened amount of time, many more back-to-back sets, longer road trips, and a lot more uncertainty as teams will be contending with the coronavirus.

I asked Jazz head coach Quin Snyder if he could foresee the schedule meaning more rest for players than maybe in previous seasons and in turn if that could mean more opportunity for some of the fringe players like Miye Oni, Juwan Morgan and Jarrell Brantley. In short, he said yes to both, but added that there’s even more at play when you consider the other variables at play.

On the outset it would be really nice to look at the schedule and plan for some rest for certain key players. But, for example, what if Snyder is planning to have Oni fill in for a player on a back-to-back set and Oni is then unavailable because of the COVID-19 protocol. Then of course there’s always injury to think about, that can change plans in an instant.

“Hopefully knock on wood it’s not COVID but I think we can probably anticipate some of that” Snyder said. “You do want to keep guys fresh.”

Snyder also noted his preference to give players full games off rather than limiting their minutes during any particular game.

It’s going to make the roles of the end of bench players, two-way players, and rookies even more important during the regular season and give them more opportunity than they might have had during a normal, non-pandemic season.

The Jazz absolutely had backup plans if they weren’t able to get a deal done with Derrick Favors. Any team heads into the offseason knowing that there’s a slight chance that Plan A could backfire, but there also was a lot of reason to believe that they would be able to get the deal done, and they did.

As for who might get more playing time between Brantley, Morgan and Oni, it really is going to depend on how the season unfolds and who is available or resting during certain matchups. If this was in more of a vacuum I would anticipate Oni getting a good amount of opportunity with his ability to play on the wing and his defensive promise.

The fact that Bojan Bogdanovic took part in the team’s first practice and was a full participant is a good indication that he is as ready as he can be at this point.

There’s reason to believe that he might be one of the players that the Jazz are cautious with this season and allow him some rest, especially through heavy game sets. There’s really no reason to rush things with Bogey, the Jazz need him in the playoffs. But, there’s no reason to believe that he’s anything other than ready from the reports coming out of training camp.

I understand that with Emmanuel Mudiay gone it has a lot of people wondering where the Jazz are going to find third point guard minutes but I don’t think the Jazz are concerned with this and neither am I.

Donovan Mitchell and Mike Conley will share majority of point guard minutes but the Jazz have also run plenty of sets with Joe Ingles as the initiator as well as Jordan Clarkson. They have plenty of capable ball handlers that can initiate offense without having to dig down into the third string of players, and when the games really matter in the postseason a third point guard wouldn’t even crack the rotation.

I would expect the starting unit to be just as it was for the majority of last season (or at least as it was intended to be) — Mitchell, Conley, Bogdanovic, Rudy Gobert, and Royce O’Neale.

There’s definitely going to be some variation on that starting five depending on matchups, rest and availability, which could bring Favors, Clarkson, Ingles or any number of other players into the fold, but I would expect the main five to stay the same.

If Clarkson had been with the Jazz for the entire season last year and had been as efficient as he was for the Jazz he could have had a real case for Sixth Man of the Year consideration. It’ll depend a lot on what he’s able to do this season but I absolutely wouldn’t count him out.

I’m really looking forward to having basketball back in my life and the potential of getting back to a normal NBA calendar. I’m allowing myself to be extra optimistic and hope that we can get the coronavirus under control and possibly see a vaccine so that life can return to normal.

All that being said, a lot of the coverage this season and essentially every interview is going to be done virtually and I’m not looking forward to that. It’s really hard to create rapport with new players and build on relationships when there’s not time to talk to them on the sidelines or in the tunnels and in the locker room. I wish that it was different, but it’s just the way it has to be right now.

I’m hopeful that we’ll be able to find creative ways to keep coverage from being stale and I’m open to suggestions so maybe this will give us the opportunity to engage more with readers. Silver linings.

If you would like to have your question answered, you can send it to me at stodd@deseretnews.com with “mailbag” in the subject line, or you can send it to me via Twitter @NBASarah.