Utah Jazz: Rodney Hood and Ricky Rubio slotted at 16th in B/R’s backcourt rankings

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) /

Bleacher Report recently released its rankings of every NBA team’s starting backcourts and the Utah Jazz duo of Ricky Rubio and Rodney Hood came in at a fair 16th. However, the two could be primed to absolutely shatter that expectation.

It’s not hard to tell that although the NBA season is drawing nearer, we’re still very much in offseason mode as the lists and rankings continue to be pumped out as NBA news is slow overall and anticipation for the 2017-18 season builds. We’ve covered Sports Illustrated’s Top 100 NBA Players list extensively here at The J-Notes, but with that list all wrapped up now, Bleacher Report got in on the rankings action with a cool piece that hit the web on Friday.

Their focus wasn’t on the NBA’s best individual players, however. Instead, they focused on the best starting backcourt duos across the league that included a surprising final statement which saw Golden State’s prolific pair of guards unseated from the top spot by the Houston Rockets’ Chris Paul and James Harden.

Looking up and down the list, which is accessible in the link in the tweet below, it’s pretty incredible just how many talented guard combos there are in the NBA. The point guard position has become one of the most skilled in the league and having a second solid wing player to pair alongside him has become an absolute must-have as well.

With so much talent across the board, it wasn’t much of a surprise to see Utah’s starting backcourt duo of Ricky Rubio and Rodney Hood come in at a mediocre 16th overall. Although both of these players have talent and promise, based on what they’ve shown thus far in their careers, I felt like it was a very fair ranking, and perhaps could even be construed as a little high, especially with some talented vets finishing lower in the rankings behind them.

However, the exciting thing about Utah’s backcourt duo is that while 16th is a fair ranking for Rubio and Hood based on what we’ve seen out of them so far, both are poised to have breakout seasons in 2017-18, and by the year’s end, they could very well find themselves deserving of a much higher finish than their backcourt counterparts from around the league.

Hood was dramatically hampered by injuries last season as he missed 23 total games due to various ailments. And given that the barrage of setbacks happened all throughout the year, not all at once, it seemed that whenever Hood was about to get a rhythm, he instead found himself set back once again, resulting in some highly consistent play.

As a result, he logged just 12.7 points per game (about two less than the year prior) in just 27 minutes per contest (about a five minute difference). His woes eventually found him out of the starting line up completely as he was replaced by the more reliable Joe Ingles.

However, that absolutely will not be an option this upcoming year. All indications have been that Hood has put in an excellent offseason and he seems poised and ready for a breakout year where he will take over as the primary wing scorer in place of Gordon Hayward.

He’s shown flashes of being an electric and versatile scorer as well as a reliable dead-eye from behind the arc, so if he can iron out some of the issues he’s had thus far in his career and reach his self-proclaimed goal of becoming an All-Star, then he could very well bolster Utah’s overall backcourt ranking.

Ricky Rubio should play a significant role in doing just that as well. It’s been no secret that I have high hopes for the veteran point guard out of Spain and believe that his move to the Jazz will produce a break-out season for him. No disrespect to Tom Thibodeau and former members of the Minnesota Timberwolves coaching staff, but I believe that Quin Snyder and Co. will get the absolute most out of Rubio and set him up to have a stellar year.

He was very highly touted when he first entered the league and in many ways has failed to live up to the illustrious expectations surrounding him. Nevertheless, he is an incredible passer and a gifted floor general who can effectively run an offense. He certainly needs to improve his scoring so that opposing teams aren’t able to sag off him and clog the middle on the Jazz, but if he even produces mild improvements in that area, it could revolutionize his game.

Although he shot just 40.2 percent from the field and 30.6 percent from deep last season, he ended the 2016-17 campaign on a much more efficient streak and also has shot the ball quite well during his recent EuroBasket play this summer. Hopefully that will bolster his confidence and allow him to become an excellent piece of Utah’s starting lineup as he excels on both ends of the floor.

Ranking Rubio and Hood as the 16th best backcourt in the league is absolutely a fair assessment at this point. However, when viewing the potential that they both have to up their game to another level this upcoming season, they could very well shatter that mark.

If Hood breaks out as a near All-Star caliber talent and if Rubio can improve his shooting efficiency while continuing to run the pick-and-roll with ease and maintaining the 9.1 assist per game average that he posted last season, these two could quickly become a dynamic, albeit underrated duo.

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I’m not about to predict that they will work their way into being one of the elite backcourts in the league given the ridiculous amount of talent surrounding them. However, if each of them can reach their ceiling that I’ve described here, than predicting them to at least become a top 10 backcourt duo during the 2017-18 season is entirely realistic.

Utah’s success this year will depend largely on several players stepping up and reaching formerly unattainable heights. Hood and Rubio aren’t the only ones that will need to do so by any means, but they’re certainly very important cogs in Utah’s plan of attack. Their ability to exceed expectations could very well set the pace for the rest of the team and help the Utah Jazz as a whole become a shockingly competitive team during the upcoming season.