Utah Jazz: Can Rodney Hood take over as ‘the guy’?

SALT LAKE CITY, UT - APRIL 23: Rodney Hood (Photo by Gene Sweeney Jr/Getty Images)
SALT LAKE CITY, UT - APRIL 23: Rodney Hood (Photo by Gene Sweeney Jr/Getty Images) /

This offseason has been a busy one for the Utah Jazz. Gordon Hayward left for Boston and because of the way it played out, they were unable to bring in any offensive firepower.

Following the departure of Gordon Hayward and the problematic timing of his decision, the Utah Jazz find themselves in a familiar spot. They’ll have to do what they had done for many years and build from within.

Utah has done an exceptional job from a defensive standpoint, filling the hole left by Hayward with defensive specialist Thabo Sefolosha, as well as bringing in Donovan Mitchell and Ekpe Udoh. But they need a player that can take most of the load at the offensive end and make up for what Hayward left behind. Rodney Hood will be that guy.

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There have been times over the last three years when Hood looked unstoppable. His handle is now good enough to get to his desired spots on the floor and the release point on his jump shot makes it impossible to stop when he gets going. There have been times where he looked like far more of an offensive weapon than Hayward. Just look at his 30-point half against Kobe’s Lakers two seasons ago.

Now lets see how the two of them compare. Looking at points per possession numbers, their production looks quite similar.

The stat line above is focused on the 2016-17 NBA season, so Hayward was in his seventh season and Hood was in his third. Going by that, Hood looks pretty good compared to Hayward. In more basic, commonly known stats, Hayward averaged 17.4 points, 3.6 assists, 3.8 rebounds, 1.0 steals, 0.7 blocks and 2.1 turnovers per 36 minutes in his third season.

Hood averaged 16.9 points, 2.2 assists, 4.6 rebounds, 0.9 steals, 0.2 blocks and 1.5 turnovers per 36 minutes in his third season (last season). So after three years in the league, Hood and Hayward managed to get into a stalemate as far as stats go.

SALT LAKE CITY, UT – MAY 8: Rodney Hood
SALT LAKE CITY, UT – MAY 8: Rodney Hood /

For Jazz fans eagerly reading this article that makes Hood seem as good as Hayward in each of their first three years, the only problem is that Hood is roughly two years older at the same stage.

Hayward’s numbers last season were somewhat supported by being labelled the ‘number one option’. In other words, the bulk of the good looks that were manufactured by the coaching staff went the way of Hayward, including the Ingles to Gordon lob pass that we saw a lot last year.

Rodney averaged 12.7 points per game last season, so he has some ways to go in matching Hayward. However, he was injured a lot last season so he couldn’t find a rhythm, and he played just 27 minutes per game.

With most of the shots that would otherwise be going to Hayward now belonging to Hood, provided he stays healthy, it’s not much of a stretch to say Hood can get to at least 18 points per game with a similar efficiency to Hayward. Speaking of efficiency, here’s how Hood compares to four shooting guards that made the All-Star game last season in points per possession numbers –

This really surprised me because Thompson, Harden, Butler and DeRozan are all great players. There’s a reason that they were All-Stars last year and Hood compares really well to each of them. It is easier for a player to show up well in these stats that isn’t heavily relied on but nonetheless, these are some very encouraging signs for Jazz fans.

Some people are expecting or at least hoping Hood will quickly explode into an offensive superstar and replace Hayward’s numbers right away but that won’t happen. In three years, I’m expecting Hood to be a far better offensive player than Hayward is now, but expecting that so soon is unreasonable.

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Next season, the 15.8 shot attempts Hayward will no longer be getting will be divided up among Hood, Rudy Gobert and Derrick Favors with scraps being left to the rest of the roster. So Hood won’t end up being an overly showcased part of the Jazz’s offensive schemes, but he will be ‘the guy’ and looked at to score down the stretch of games.

Soon we’ll see if Rodney Hood can accept this challenge and become the head of the snake for a revamped Utah Jazz team.

Statistics courtesy of Basketball Reference. Graphs in tweets made by NBAMath.