Rodney Hood is coming off an inconsistent season and has been criticized a lot for his most recent performances. Although he didn’t have the breakout year that the Utah Jazz were hoping for, he still showed some good signs.
A lot of people have forgotten how good Rodney Hood was looking for the Utah Jazz before the injuries hit. He looked well-improved over a solid season two years ago. From then on, it was one injury after another and it made him unable to find a rhythm for the remainder of the season.
Hood was completely injury-free for the first 19 games of the year. He missed just one game with illness before a hamstring injury set him back and knocked his great season off course. In these first 19 games, Hood averaged 16.1 points per game and looked like a more than capable contributor whose starting role was never in question.
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His field goal percentage (44.2) and three-point percentage (37.4) weren’t indicative of how well he shot the ball because he was essentially the designated player to take the bail-out shots late in the shot clock. His most impressive stat over that 19 game span was his outstanding plus/minus of 5.1 which even managed to surpass the teams plus/minus of 4.9.
The rest of his season was constantly interrupted by little nagging injuries. It seemed that every time he took one step forward, he got pushed two steps back. To put into perspective how those injuries impacted the rest of his season, he averaged just 11.2 points per game for the rest of the season. And even worse, his plus/minus dropped to just 0.4 per game.
He became a standard role player and he just lost his way. He didn’t have the same lift on his jump-shot, and couldn’t find that extra step of pace going to the rim. His defense also suffered as he started to play with his hands instead of his feet.
Although it looks on paper like a lost season that should be quickly stuck in the rearview mirror, he did learn one thing that could be very useful in the future; how to play through adversity. Hood might not have been the most explosive player to begin with, but he was very athletic and knew how use every bit of his 6-foot-8 frame. This was taken from him with the hamstring soreness, the hyperextended knee, the plantar fasciitis that’s been bothering him since his days at Duke, and having to gear up for the playoffs on one good leg.
Nonetheless, he didn’t sulk or complain, he got out there and continued to fight. He may not make the smartest decisions all the time, but he was always an emotional leader and mentally engaged from buzzer to buzzer.
It must have been mighty frustrating for him to lose his starting spot for the playoffs. He’s worked hard for three years to finally get his first taste of playoff basketball and he was limited to just 25.2 minutes per game and was never used as more than a tertiary scorer when he was on the floor. His role was basically to stand at the three-point line and launch away when Joe Johnson and Gordon Hayward struggled to create their shot and there was two seconds on the shot clock.
But what did he do? He kept at it and did the things that could give his team the best chance to win. In an interview conducted shortly after the postseason’s end, Hood bluntly answered a question with “I’m a starter”.
Jazz fans did not take a liking to this, but to be honest, if I were in the same situation, my words would have been much, much stronger. I actually think he did a good job to hold it in.
No disrespect to players like Joe Ingles who took the bulk of his minutes, but Hood still has the potential to be an elite scorer in this league and I think being the primary or secondary ball handler in the playoffs (especially in the series against the Warriors) would be extremely beneficial for Hood in the future.
His performance late in the season and blunt comments at the conclusion of the season soured the taste of Jazz fans and his name has been up in the air in several trade conversations. If I were starting a team from scratch and I got to choose a Jazz player to come and join my team, Hood would be number three on the list (only behind Hayward and Gobert). Hood is what is called a three-level scorer, meaning he is perfectly capable of finishing at the rim, as well as the mid-range and behind the three-point line.
I’d hazard a guess that if Hood was one of the two prime offensive options at an average/sub-par team and was relied upon to score, he could be a 23 points per game scorer and maybe more next season. Sadly, he doesn’t do much else. He is a solid rebounder but a below average playmaker and decision-maker. When he uses his dribble to get within 18 feet of the basket, he is simply unstoppable because he has the length and leap to shoot a jumper or hook over any shooting guard in the league.
He’s still a great young player with lots of upside, but he will never each his full potential in the Jazz’s system with Gordon Hayward around. I’d love seeing Hood in a Jazz jersey for years to come, but he could be great somewhere else. However, I’m not even sure if his trade value is appropriate for his potential.
Rodney Hood still managed to be effective despite unfortunate occurrences out of his control such as injuries. He fought through adversity and still has plenty of potential. He could be in for a big, breakout season next year if he can get his body right.
Statistics courtesy of Basketball Reference.