This year was supposed to be different for Rodney Hood.
He was supposed to step into the shoes that Gordon Hayward left behind, leading Quin Snyder’s offense and the Jazz while keeping them in playoff contention. He was supposed to be grabbing the attention of the Jazz’s and other NBA organizations’ front offices, while in the final year of his contract to maximize his value. He was supposed to burst onto the scene, and become the go-to scorer that most of us thought he could be. He was supposed to prove to the NBA that he was a max-deal type player.
The strange thing is, despite the fact that Hood is playing his best basketball of his lifetime, no one is talking about him, and most of these things have not come to pass.
There are a few possible explanations to Hood’s absence in the public conversation, both among Jazz fans and the NBA in its entirety.
This season, Hood has taken a back seat to the incredible emergence of Donovan Mitchell. On November 10th, Quin Snyder decided to send Hood to the bench and have him lead the second unit against the Miami Heat. He was replaced in the starting rotation by rookie Donovan Mitchell, who, incase you’ve been living under a rock, is now taking the NBA by storm. Mitchell seized his opportunity and put together one of best 10-game stretches by a rookie in NBA history, including a 41-point performance against the New Orleans Pelicans. Mitchell has become the permanent starter, fan favorite, and gained the respect of superstars across the league. Meanwhile, Rodney Hood sits quietly in the back, and is probably thinking that this was supposed to be him.
Hood has made it clear several times throughout his career that he is NBA-starter material. In exit interviews last season, when asked about his role he did not waver one bit and assured reporters he was “for sure a starter”. He reiterated himself recently after getting sent to the second unit.
“Just being a professional and not taking a step back and don’t think nothing less of myself,” Hood said. “I know I can play with the best of them, regardless of when I’m getting in I’ve got to put in work so that’s how I approach it.”
Hood has actually been a more effective player coming off the bench this season, and was still the Jazz’s leading scorer until a few games ago when Mitchell also took that from him. Hood has remained positive throughout the process, and has still been a very integral part of the Jazz scheme and system despite being part of the second unit.
But even considering how much attention Donovan Mitchell has diverted from Rodney Hood this season, he still deserves some high praise, recognition, and good old-fashioned conversation.
He is currently averaging career highs in several major stat areas, including points, field goal percentage, three-point percentage, and free-throw percentage. Hood is having the best year of his NBA career, and he is also accomplishing something that has never been done in Utah Jazz franchise history. If Hood were to finish the season at his current averages, it would be the only season in Jazz franchise history in which a player averaged at least 17 points per game on 42-43-85 percent shooting. In fact, he would be just the 21st player to accomplish such stats in NBA history. Other NBA players to post season numbers like these include Steph Curry, Steve Nash, Ray Allen, and Kawhi Leonard. But still, no one seems to be talking about this, or Rodney Hood.
He won’t grace the highlight reel with any high-flying dunks or ridiculous crossovers too often, and perhaps that is part of the issue. Hood’s play style is in some senses the opposite to a Donovan Mitchell, who is an incredibly high-energy type player. Hood has made his NBA living on spot-up threes, mid-range jumpers off of screens and slowed down iso-plays. His more conservative scoring style takes a backseat in the national conversation when Donovan Mitchell is euro-stepping through the lane and jumping out of the gym for put-back dunks. Donovan Mitchell’s style is much more suited for the talk around the dessert table at your family Christmas party, and/or highlights on SportsCenter and YouTube.
Hood will hope to change his storyline throughout the rest of the season, as he will become a restricted free agent this summer and is hoping to get all the positive attention that he can. Hood is currently in the final year of his four-year, $6 Million deal, and is trying to prove his worth for a big pay day this coming offseason. The Jazz and Hood could not come to terms on an extension, so the market will be tested and we will see if the Jazz match any qualifying offer from another team.
We’ve already seen some deals get inked for players similar to Hood, which provide a possible sample of what he can expect. The ceiling is probably a deal similar to the Nuggets’ Gary Harris, who signed a four-year $84 Million deal earlier on the dawn of the NBA season. Another possible comparison is that of Tim Hardaway Jr, who signed a four-year, $71 Million deal with the New York Knicks this off-season. A conservative floor for Hood’s contract could be The Toronto Raptors’ Norman Powell, who agreed to a four-year, $42 Million extension earlier this season.
Rodney Hood has shown that he is viable NBA player. He’s been a very solid player for the Jazz, and provided some great value for the franchise. On some nights, he looks like a star that could be a franchise staple. On others, he looks like a solid role player that could absolutely contribute to a winning basketball team. His ultimate value remains yet to be seen, and much of that will depend on how the rest of this season rides out. For now, the Jazz will enjoy him for the versatile scorer and great team player that he seems to be.