When you think of the Utah Jazz franchise you think of mainly point guards and bigmen. The Jazz have sported a few notable ones at lead guard over the last four decades: Jim McElroy, , Rickey Green, , and this John Stockton guy. Jazz bigmen may not all have long careers, but some have shone brightly like , Rich Kelley, , , Spencer Haywood, , Thurl Bailey, , Walt Bellamy, Mark Eaton, and Karl Malone. If you were to be critical of the franchise it would be that, for whatever reason (and probably somewhat related to the remixed Dick Motta flex offense they ran for decades), they just didn't have impact wing players. You had Pistol Pete Maravich, and high scoring yet undersized Adrian Dantley. Behind those two the pickings get slim. Only one of Darrell Griffith, Jeff Malone, , and were ever All-Stars in a Jazz uni, and it was the guy who scored the least out of that group. But it's a wing player's league right now. You almost have to have some level of star ability at the 2 or the 3. And thankfully, the Jazz are slowly developing a few keepers.
will be going into this sixth year in the NBA this season, and likely his second All-Star snub season. Last season was out of sight / out of mind for casual fans when it came up to , arguably the team's most exciting player under 7'2. (I see ya, !) But the real hidden gem for the Jazz this season will be .
Hood was picked #23 in the 2014 NBA Draft, and had an injury plagued first NBA season. He had foot problems with both feet, that sidelined him to just 50 games, spread out over a few stints ever few weeks. He missed 10 games to right foot inflammation in November. Then 7 to left foot inflammation in January, and then another 12 for the same foot going into February. He couldn't even catch a break above the ankles, missing games in March and April to gastrointestinal distress and a concussion, respectively. Rodney didn't get a chance to build momentum in his rookie season but still managed 8.7 ppg, 2.3 rpg, 1.7 apg, and 0.6 spg in 21.3 mpg. As far as late 1st rounders go, it's not bad. But we're not going to judge Rodney Hood by his draft position, after all his peers do not. The Rookie Survey results for 2014 indicated that other rookies felt like Rodney had a shot at being the Rookie of the Year, while others felt like he would have the Best NBA Career, was the Best Shooter, and the Funniest -- while still being the Most Overlooked.
He may not have had a chance to fully reach the potential he had, and mostly due to injury. His offensive potential is apparent. We saw him swish his way to a fantastic Rookie summer league in Las Vegas, and when the games counted he topped 20 points five different times (thought they were against the lowly Sacramento Kings x2, Charlotte Hornets, Portland Trail Blazers, Houston Rockets; he only scored 19 against the Golden State Warriors, and 18 against the Memphis Grizzlies). He dropped at least 10 points on 16 different nights, despite almost always playing injured, or right after being injured.
Rodney does have a sweet stroke, but he's not relying on spot up shooting to get the majority of his points. His versatility allows for him to put the ball on the floor, create his own shot, create for others -- and most importantly -- get to the line. In some of his biggest games as a rookie he was just an offensive force the other team had no answer for. In his 10 highest scoring games last season he dropped 196 points off of 133 shots, that's a PPS value of 1.47, which is Karl Malone-like. He was also out there dropping dimes, though less consistently. He averaged only 2.4 apg during that stretch, but had games of 4+ or more on multiple occasions, once topping off at 8 -- while still scoring over 20.
His All-Around game will translate well to his "second" rookie season of sorts. Opposing scouting reports are still incomplete, and they will be more and more focused on Gordon and Alec, and heck, possibly even(don't leave him open on the baseline). This fog of war (or really, fog of injury) will help Rodney stay under the radar while filling up the box scores. He'll give teams buckets this year while still being overlooked.
That's kind of been his entire basketball career, though, right? He grew up in very tiny Meridian, in Mississippi, and quietly attended Mississippi State University for a season. (Fun fact, only 13 other players went there and made it to the NBA, one of them was Jeff Malone!) So out of high school he was overlooked and had to go to a small program. After being himself he got a red shirt transfer to Duke, where he was overlooked in favor of his teammates, like Jabari Parker. And then on draft night he was over looked again, going behind such amazing players like #4 (797 mins), #8 (1127 mins), #9 (259 mins), #11 (321 mins), #15 (739 mins), #17 (332 mins), and #20 (23 mins).
In the media interview room that night he cried in front of reporters (and reckless boggers alike) about it. He cried about his struggles to make it to the NBA from such a small town, and cried in relief of finally being somewhat vindicated by being drafted in the 1st round. Mr. Overlooked is going to make teams all over cry about passing him up now.
Rodney is not just his shooting, and not just his stats. It's the person that makes him who he is. His sincerity and honesty made me a fan. Allowing himself to show emotions on draft night allowed the world to see the quality of man he is. And it's not just a gimmick either. He doesn't give up on plays and keeps his head up . . . and that allows for some really easy baskets to happen.
He may start or come off the bench this season, but the only people who are going to care about that will be the players tasked with guarding him. Starting wings don't want to have to chase him all around the court as he does his James Worthy with better handles. If Hood stays on the court, great things will happen.stuff around screens. And bench wings want nothing of his aggressive face up game, a
And while he may not outwardly wish to shed his Mr. Overlooked label, he'll do everything he an on the court to make you take notice. The 22 year old looks to be a fixture of many a good to great Jazz team in the future. And along with the wing platoon of Gordon Hayward, Alec Burks,, , and Christapher Johnson -- the Jazz wings may still lack in star power. But this may be the best Jazz wing corps from #1 to #6 ever.
A huge part of that will be the breakout season for Rodney Hood.