Utah Jazz Best Case/Worst Case Scenario Series: Rodney Hood

SACRAMENTO, CA - MARCH 29: Rodney Hood(Photo by Rocky Widner/NBAE via Getty Images)
SACRAMENTO, CA - MARCH 29: Rodney Hood(Photo by Rocky Widner/NBAE via Getty Images) /

Rodney Hood will absolutely have to step up for the Utah Jazz if they hope to continue to have any semblance of the success they enjoyed last season.

Of all the Utah Jazz players who have pressure on them to step up in the wake of the departure of Gordon Hayward, perhaps none will have higher expectations than Rodney Hood. In some ways, it’s not fair to place that high of expectations on the fourth-year player out of Duke given that he’s still just 24 years old, was a former late first round pick (selected 23rd overall) and hasn’t exactly been a model of consistency for the Jazz.

Yet on the other hand, Hood has shown some of the most brilliant flashes of production and as such, there’s certainly an argument to be had that he is actually the most deserving of that added pressure of any of his teammates.

In 2015-16, Hood became a rather reliable scoring option as he put up 14.5 points per game, albeit at a less than efficient mark. During that time, he displayed a solid playmaking ability that allowed him to create his own shot and a solid yet streaky three-point stroke. Most importantly, he was durable in his second season as he logged 79 total games.

Last season, the major bright point about Hood was that he was able to improve his three-point shooting from 35.9 percent to a solid 37.1 percent. Unfortunately, beyond that he mostly saw his production go down. He suffered a number of different injuries and as such appeared in just 59 games. As a result, his minutes, points, assists and field goal percentage all decreased.

In other words, in a year when many thought that Hood was set to break out and prove himself as one of the major steals of the 2014 NBA Draft, instead he seemingly took a step backwards and looked very much like a disappointment.

If the Utah Jazz are to reach similar heights to what they did last season, they will absolutely need Hood to bounce back from last year and find a way to have that breakout in 2017-18. Someone is going to have to help make up for a major chunk of the scoring once provided by Gordon Hayward and given that Hood has shown the most formidable offensive arsenal among most of his current teammates, it’s not unreasonable to expect him to be that main guy.

Given that he’s entering a contract year, he’ll have plenty at stake as he hopes to prove that he’s worth a hefty sum of money moving forward. However, much like his draft class peer Dante Exum, who I covered yesterday, there’s a wide discrepancy between Hood’s best and worst case scenarios and where he lands in that spectrum could very well determine his immediate future.

Best Case Scenario

Simply put, Rodney Hood’s best case scenario is that last year was a fluke and the breakout he seemed poised for heading into last season becomes a reality in 2017-18. His 14.5 points per game as a second-year player was more than respectable and if he can build off of that to elevate his game dramatically in the upcoming season, he could turn into a fringe All-Star.

Even in a best case scenario, I don’t see Hood being selected to the All-Star game in the deep and talented West, but his ceiling very well could be nearing that level. As a definite starter and with Hayward totally out of the picture, he’ll have significantly more touches and shot opportunities, thus it’s not outside of the realm of possibilities that Hood approaches the 18-20 points per game range.

For him to do this and to truly become the weapon the Jazz need, he’ll have to eliminate some of his inconsistencies and raise his shooting percentage, especially from the field, significantly. Not only that, but he has to become more reliable in Quin Snyder’s offense, move the ball more effectively and make better overall decisions.

If Hood can transform into a deadly scorer but one that’s willing and capable of making the smart basketball play on nearly every possession, he could be a force for the Jazz.

In addition to that, Hood also has to remain healthy. He’s struggled with notable injuries in two of his three seasons at the pro level, but if he’s able to log upwards of 70 games while accomplishing the feats I’ve just detailed, he’s going to be an absolute force and likely a key piece that leads the Jazz to the playoffs.

Worst Case Scenario

In Rodney Hood’s end-of-season interview this past year, he adamantly (and somewhat frustratedly in my mind) declared that he is and deserves to be a starter. While that certainly should be the case this upcoming season, the problem last year was that he was replaced in the starting lineup for the exact reason that he had failed to play like a starter!

Aside from further injury issues, which of course is a legitimate concern, Hood’s main worst case scenario is that he simply fails to improve or execute consistently as he’s expected to. Even if things go quite terribly for Hood this season, I don’t see a scenario where he falls out of the rotation entirely, but being slid down to a bench role wouldn’t be entirely shocking if he fails to make adjustments.

In a worst case scenario, Hood would continue to struggle with efficiency and falter under the pressure of being expected to put up more points and would eventually be replaced in the starting lineup by someone like Thabo Sefolosha, Dante Exum, Donovan Mitchell or perhaps even Alec Burks.

Although he ought to be a 30+ minute per night guy, if he struggles to find his shot, won’t move the ball, or becomes a liability on defense – all of which have been real concerns facing him – then he could see that number drop well into the 20s. The Jazz are counting on Rodney to step up in a big way this upcoming season and his inability to do so would likely sink the Jazz entirely.

Next: Utah Jazz Best Case/Worst Case Scenario Series: Dante Exum

While injuries had something to do with it, Hood’s puzzling retrogression last season was a troubling sign for the Jazz that leaves a lot of doubts for the upcoming season. His ability to put that behind him, capitalize on an offseason of hard work and become one of Utah’s top scorers (if not the top scorer) could very well determine not only his own success, but the success of the Jazz as a whole.

A lot is riding on Rodney Hood this upcoming year. And if he can overcome the pressure surrounding him, he could be in for a very memorable and productive season.