Three most important players to Utah Jazz success in 2017-18

SALT LAKE CITY, UT - APRIL 23: Joe Johnson
SALT LAKE CITY, UT - APRIL 23: Joe Johnson /
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SALT LAKE CITY, UT – APRIL 23: Rodney Hood
SALT LAKE CITY, UT – APRIL 23: Rodney Hood /

No. 1: Rodney Hood

In a recent episode of the Three-Point Threat Podcast, both my J-Notes colleague Jared Barker and I agreed that while Favors was the returning Jazz player we were most excited to see in action next season, Rodney Hood is indeed the one who’s most important to the Jazz’s success. Oddly enough, in a lot of ways Hood’s story is similar to Favors in that he looked to be on the cusp of greatness in 2015-16, but rather than break out last season, instead he was hindered by inconsistency and injuries.

Hood appeared in 59 games last season, just nine more than Favors, but his games missed due to injury seemed to be much more sporadic. With all the setbacks that Hood suffered, he seemed to never be able to gain any semblance of a rhythm and his numbers most certainly reflected that. His scoring output dropped by about two points per game, while his field goal efficiency dropped nearly two percentage points to a meager 40.8 percent average.

He was able to improve his three point shooting percentage, however it was on less attempts and less three-pointers made per game. And in spite of the uptick in percentage, his streakiness and inconsistency were still very much present. Nevertheless, he did once show flashes of potentially being one of the Jazz’s most deadly offensive weapons and with Hayward’s 21.9 points per game now off the team, they’ll certainly need that out of him.

A recent FanRag Sports piece highlighted Rodney Hood as one of the NBA’s top most improved player candidates for 2017-18 and that’s exactly what he’ll have to be for the Jazz to be able to bounce back next season. Fortunately for Hood and the Jazz, as FanRag Sports’ Andy Bailey pointed out in the tweet below, the fourth-year pro out of Duke actually played better when Hayward wasn’t on the floor alongside him.

The Jazz’s success depends largely on whether Hood can make the leap from a 12 to 14 points per game guy to a 18 to 19 points per game kind of guy while maintaining some semblance of efficiency. While a player like Derrick Favors will be important to Utah’s success, Hood’s ability to create shots and light it up from three make him special and his ability to capitalize on those traits could make all the difference for the Jazz this upcoming season.

Next: Four reasons why the Utah Jazz will make the playoffs in 2018

The Jazz will have to take a committee approach and truly utilize their well-roundedness to their utmost advantage if they hope to make up for the loss of Gordon Hayward and continue to be a threat next season. And while that will require everyone on the team to step up in a big way, none have the opportunity to provide a bigger lift than Dante Exum, Derrick Favors and Rodney Hood.