As the Utah Jazz wade through the offseason — through the draft, free agency, summer trades and the number of decisions that need to be made — a critical component for the future success of the team remains the development of the team’s 2023-24 rookies.

Although there are a number of nuanced technical skills and on-court details that Keyonte George, Taylor Hendricks and Brice Sensabaugh all need to refine, the most important part of their first NBA offseason will be taking care of their bodies.

“I think they’re finding out now, based on the minutes they’re playing, that none of them are probably in good enough shape to be who they want to be. So a lot of work to do this summer.”

—  Utah Jazz coach Will Hardy on the Jazz's three rookies

“In the meetings that we’ve had with each of those guys, offseason work is broken down into different categories,” Jazz coach Will Hardy said. “The first one for all of them is their body. It’s just the reality of transitioning to the NBA as a young player. All three of them have worked really hard this season. We’ve seen improvements in their bodies from the beginning of the season to now. But when you’re playing minutes, whether it’s here or in the G League, you may not see as much growth as you’d like.”

After going through end-of-season meetings with Hardy and Jazz brass, Sensabaugh said the thing that stood out the most was the need to be in better shape overall, which includes building strength, cutting weight, getting more flexible and finding burst in ways that he previously hasn’t developed it.

It’s a sentiment that was shared by George, who knows that his conditioning is intrinsically tied to his ability to navigate around screens and to be able to play longer stretches. And Hendricks knows that the things he wants to focus his time on are all going to depend on how much his body evolves.

“The main thing for me is my creativity on the ball,” Hendricks said. “And a lot of (it) has to do with strength and my body. I want to work on a lot bigger muscle mass.”

That the message sunk in for the young players is music to Hardy’s ears, because this isn’t just about cutting a few pounds or hopping on the treadmill more often.

Utah Jazz forward Taylor Hendricks (0) looks at the referee during game against the Dallas Mavericks at the Delta Center in Salt Lake City on Monday, March 25, 2024. | Kristin Murphy, Deseret News

“The summer is the opportunity to really dig in on your body and it’s not just strength,” Hardy said. “It’s about quickness, definitely conditioning for all three of them, and more. I think they’re finding out now, based on the minutes they’re playing, that none of them are probably in good enough shape to be who they want to be. So a lot of work to do this summer.”

While there is some understanding that these are all 20-year-old young men, whose bodies aren’t going to take the form of an NBA veteran over the course of a couple months, it is also imperative for them to understand that they have to train not only their bodies, but their minds.

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The young players on this Jazz team, and that includes Walker Kessler, who is gearing up for his third NBA season, don’t know what it’s like to be playing beyond the 82-game regular season schedule. When the season ended, they were drained, not just physically, but mentally and emotionally.

Hardy wants them to be able to push past that fatigue and have the fortitude to go beyond what feels comfortable.

“The part that they maybe haven’t processed yet is that if we’re where we want to be ... we would be preparing to go play our best basketball of the season, right now,” Hardy said following the Jazz’s last game of the year. “Taking a few days off, do our playoff prep, and then it’s go-time. So you have to prepare your body in a way that you can endure not only an 82-game season, but then be ready to play in the playoffs.”

So, when the youngsters return to Salt Lake City for Summer League in July, the Jazz want to see that there’s been significant progress and work done. It’s the midpoint of the offseason and will be a good time to evaluate how the rookies are preparing for their second NBA season.

Utah Jazz forward Brice Sensabaugh (8) smiles after a call in Salt Lake City on Thursday, April 11, 2024. Utah won 124-121. | Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News
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