Last night the Utah Jazz (26-16) won the game, but lost Rodney Hood. He hyper-extended his right knee with under 2:00 minutes to go in the game, left, and did not return. It’s a shame because Utah has been very injured this year and had FINALLY gotten healthy enough for Quin Snyder to start assigning players to the healthy, but inactive roster. All in all Utah has already had to deal with 51 games without one of their five normal starters this year, and 101 games without one of their top 10 rotation players. The three major culprits have been Alec Burks (34 games missed), George Hill (24), and Derrick Favors (15). (N.B. This does not include DNP-CDs) Missing Hood for any time, extended or otherwise, is going to suck for a variety of reasons.
There’s no bigger reason right now than the fact that Utah is rolling right now, have a favorable schedule coming up (and you have to win the games you are favored in), and are just plain unstoppable when healthy.
Yes, Utah has 26 wins and are #1 in the Northwest division, #5 in the Western conference, and tied for #7 in the entire NBA. But the 26-16 record (a .619 win percentage) is nothing compared to what Utah has done when healthy. When the Jazz are missing just two (or fewer) of their Top 10 players the team is 16-4. That’s a win percentage of .800 — which is much higher.
It’s not just about winning, it’s about the quality of wins as well.
- Detroit Pistons — 33 point win at home
- Atlanta Hawks — 27 point win at home
- Denver Nuggets — 25 point win at home
- Oklahoma City Thunder — 20 point win at home
- Houston Rockets — 19 point win at home
- Philadelphia 76ers — 17 point win at home
- Brooklyn Nets -- 12 point win on the road
- Memphis Grizzlies and Minnesota Timberwolves — both were 9 point wins on the road
In nine of these 16 wins the Jazz are destroying teams. Including good teams like the Thunder and Rockets, and handling teams like the Grizzlies in their den. Of course, the team did drop four games when missing just TWO or fewer rotation players: losing to the Los Angeles Clippers on the road by 13 in the third game of the season; and then losing to the Boston Celtics, Toronto Raptors, and Memphis Grizzlies all on the same, compacted road trip. That last Grizzlies game in particular was a schedule loss.
Utah is good when healthy. Hood was a part of that. Without him the team is STILL going to qualify as being only “two or fewer rotation players” injured. So what does Quin Snyder do if Hood is out for a bit?
First, let’s look at the schedule from now on until the All-Star Break:
- Week 1: @ Phoenix Suns (Devin Booker), @ Dallas Mavericks (Wesley Matthews), Indiana Pacers (Monta Ellis)
- Week 2: Oklahoma City Thunder (Victor Oladipo), @ Denver Nuggets (Jamal Murray), Los Angeles Lakers (Jordan Clarkson), Memphis Grizzlies (Tony Allen)
- Week 3: Milwaukee Bucks (Tony Snell), Charlotte Hornets (Nicolas Batum)
- Week 4: @ Atlanta Hawks (Kent Bazemore), @ New Orleans Pelicans (Buddy Hield), @ Dallas Mavericks (Wesley Matthews), @ Boston Celtics (Avery Bradley)
- Week 5: Los Angeles Clippers (J.J. Redick), Portland Trail Blazers (C.J. McCollum)
So Utah plays 15 more games until the All-Star Break. Six are on the road, and nine at home. Most of them are not playing that well right now. Some of these teams are tough. Some of them are tough because of their shooting guards. But most of them are not relying on their SG to get them wins or losses.
Similarly, of the few here who are scorers (Booker, Bazemore, McCollum, et al.) — it’s not like Quin was relying on Rodney for defense. And really? What Rodney was doing (on average) was something easily replaceable by the other players on the court. What makes Rodney amazing is his extreme abilities, like what we saw in the Pistons game where he went 7/8 from three. Those games this season have been rare. However, he did have 12 games this year with 50.00 FG% or better, 8 games of making four or more 3PTers, and 20 games this season where he ended up with 15 or more points. (Full game log here, courtesy of Basketball-Reference.com)
However, for the full season, hood is averaging 14.0 ppg (.418 .358 .747) while taking 12.5 shots a game. His 3.6 rpg, 2.0 apg, and 0.6 spg are nice, but not impossible to replicate elsewhere on this roster. Hood’s main ability is his three point ability, and he leads the team in 5.7 3PTA per game. There are five players who hit with more accuracy though: George Hill (.481), Joe Ingles (.450), Derrick Favors (.400), Gordon Hayward (.392), and Joe Johnson (.383).
So who can handle the ball, and spot up an hit threes?
Bachelor #1: Joe Johnson
Joe Johnson has started 33 of 35 NBA Preseason games, 1080 of 1184 regular season games, and 95 of 101 NBA Playoff games. He has regular started for essentially his entire adult life. Even after getting traded by the Brooklyn Nets to the Miami Heat he was still starting, and his abilities on offense (what we’re trying to replace) helped keep him there beyond his reputation as a seven time NBA All-Star. In the regular season with the Heat he averaged 13.4 ppg (.518 / .417 / .765) and took 10.5 shots a game. Of course, he did it as a SF/PF who was posted up and spotted up a little more. With the Jazz we see him trying to fit into the offense, and rarely going Iso, which is his presumed strength.
If Snyder elects to use more of Joe Johnson (and that doesn’t even mean having to start him where Hood would start) that probably means more of Gordon Hayward at shooting guard. I don’t think we’re upset with that because there he would have the size and strength advantage against a lot of these shorties. Johnson playing more with the starters will also probably get him to learn Synder’s sets faster and speed up his acclimation process with the Jazz.
Furthermore, yeah, he’s one of the most clutch players in NBA history. Having him on the floor a little more and taking a few more shots will only be a plus.
Bachelor #2: Joe Ingles
The other Joe, Ingles, is younger, been with the system longer, was a starter for Snyder before, and is much more of a versatile two-way player right now. Ingles is a point forward with deep range and he hustles on defense. He can defend SG, SF, and PF right now with better than average results. And he’s shooting 45% from deep this year on three attempts a game. He’s a floor spacer, if you were worried about that.
I’m happy with either Joe taking up more of the time if Hood is out. Both are proven commodities right now who are team-first guys that get along great with everyone else. Ingles does more on defense right now than Johnson, but Johnson has been a historically significant NBA player who the refs may respect a little more out there. In just 20.0 mpg this season Ingles is averaging 6.4 ppg, 2.6 rpg, 2.1 apg, 0.9 spg, and making 1.3 threes a night. He’s not going to step on anyone’s toes out there on the court. He finds where he’s needed and he fits in.
Bachelor #3: Alec Burks
While both Joes are three point bombers, Burks isn’t quite going to hit from the same spots as Hood with the same regularity. Burks is more of a corner specialist who spots up. He’s not someone who takes a lot of threes off the bounce, or off of dribble hand-offs. So he’s not the best stylistic fit for someone replicating what Hood does. But what Alec does is he brings the energy. He’s in a completely different league athleticially and in theory be a much better defender as well.
Burks is a combo guard so he can thrive in Snyder’s switching defense where he has to move around and cover for others. This means ball handlers big and small. He doesn’t have the height or mass to defend bigs when switched onto them, but there’s a reason why Rudy Gobert is patrolling the paint — it’s precisely to get the back of his smaller teammates.
I like Burks. That’s no surprise. He hits the glass (including the offensive glass) much harder than Hood. He’s faster. He gets to the line better. (Hood averages 2.0 FTA and is playing 29.3 mpg, Burks this season averages 1.2 FTA and is playing 5.8 mpg.) He seems to be a more adept pick and roll passer as well. But he’s coming off of an injury and just isn’t in 100% game shape just yet. His opponents will be in a groove of having played for two months straight. He’s finally coming back after a year off.
It’s not perfect, especially when Hood would fire freely when open while Burks up-fakes and penetrates, but Burks could easy some of the pain of losing Hood for the short term.
Bachelor #4: Dante Exum
Dante isn’t going to get better by not playing basketball. At the very least, this gives the Kangaroo some more minutes in a regular rotation where he could finally ‘get it’. He has all the potential in the world on defense, but refs don’t see him enough to call games fairly when he’s in there. (Ref bias is real, and it reflects coaches bias. If the coach doesn’t play you, the refs will just assume that’s because you are not capable. Source: I talked with one of the head attorneys of the NBA Official’s union years ago.)
Exum just isn’t shooting well at all. And in a one for one substitution that’s what is really missed when Hood is out and Exum is in. Hood is dangerous from outside, and he has hit countless timely threes in his short career so far. Exum is dangerous from the outside too, unless you are wearing a helmet. (.276 this year)
Playing with better players may help Exum’s game grow. After all, he’ll be super duper open if he’s on the court with Hill and Hayward. Exum is the best playmaker of this bunch, but that’s really because he’s a point guard and not a wing player at all. He’s just tall and athletic as well. Exum has the capability to be a secondary or tertiary ball-handler and help move the ball for any advantage. He has greatly improved his search dribble and ability to make pocket passes to cutting bigmen.
Does playing Dante more help make up for the 14.0 ppg lost if Hood is out for a while? The only way for that to be the case is if Dante starts hitting open spot-up three pointers and finds a way to generate more easy buckets and assists for his mates. But this is a long-shot right now.
Bachelor #5: Gordon Hayward
Yes, I’m just going to double down on Gordon as one of my options. It’s like what Larry Bird would tell Bill Walton when Walton would replace an injured Robert Parish back with the Celtics — “All of the Chief’s shots are mine.” Gordon needs to be more selfish in this regard. If Hood was taking 12.5 shots a game, without Hood it’s not the end of the world if Hayward was taking at least 5 or 6 more. (Hayward FGA average this season is only 15.3.) Or if Gordon ends up averaging 25 shots a game for the next little while ( #AllStarPush ) I’m not going to be mad at him either.
He’s the team’s best player on offense and the driving force of what’s good with Utah this year. A few more 30 point games is frankly something we’d all appreciate.
So what’s up with Hood?
We don’t actually know if he’s going to miss any time. But Snyder has a few options to play with if Hood is going to be out. And either way, the Jazz are likely to still be going out there crushing teams. Thanks to Dennis Lindsey! But if you were the coach, who’s name would you call to replace Hood?