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Utah Jazz Midseason Report Card

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How have the Utah Jazz fared halfway through the season?

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We are just past the halfway point through the season, and the Utah Jazz are 17-25. The Utah Jazz season has had its positives with Donovan Mitchell on a Rookie of the Year campaign, Derrick Favors becoming an above average center, and the discovery of quality role players in Royce O’Neale, Thabo Sefolosha, Ekpe Udoh, and Jonas Jerebko. The season has also had its downs with the injuries of Rudy Gobert, Dante Exum, Raul Neto, the awkward fit of Ricky Rubio, and the disappearance of Joe Jesus.

Today we’re going to go through a midseason report card of each player, head coach Quin Snyder, and General Manager Dennis Lindsey.

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Ricky Rubio

Midseason Grade: C-

If we were grading Ricky Rubio’s efforts off the court, this would be an A+ rating. Heck, he’d probably have tested out of the class. But this season has been a C for Ricky Rubio. His defensive energy while on the court is infectious. He’s a disruptor on defense and is always getting deflections and steals.

However as disruptive as Rubio has been on the defensive end, he’s been equally disruptive for Utah on the offensive end. He’s shooting 29.7% from three while averaging a career high in three point attempts per game. He his shooting a career high in two point percentage at almost 44.8%. He has a career low in assists at 4.8 per game which isn’t entirely his fault. It’s more the spacing of Utah when paired with Favors and Gobert and the style of Utah’s advantage offense. The fit between Utah and Rubio isn’t the best one, and unfortunately it’s showing on the court.

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Donovan Mitchell

Midseason Grade: A+

What hyperbole should we use here? Amazing? Unprecendented? Historic? The rookie phenom out of Louisville is using up the world’s supply of hyperboles with each passing the game. Donovan Mitchell is now averaging 18.8 points per game and has been averaging 23 points per game since December. He is Utah’s offense without a healthy Rudy Gobert. Going into the season there were many candidates who could have been Utah’s leading scorer, Rodney Hood, Derrick Favors, and Rudy Gobert, but no one put Donovan Mitchell in this category.

He’s on a historic rookie season. He tied Karl Malone for most games with 20 points or more as a rookie (18) last night and now, Dr. Dunkenstein, is the only person ahead of him for the crown. Darrell Griffith scored 20 points or more in 50 games. That would require Donovan to score 20 points or more in 32 of his remaining 40 games. This would be a bigger accomplishment than winning Rookie of the Year. Only 21 rookies have ever scored 20 or more points in 50 games or more their rookie seasons.

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Joe Ingles

Midseason Grade: C+

It’s hard to give Joe Ingles a C+ because his social media game is so deserving of A+. Joe Ingles is still shooting 42% from 3 point land and a solid defender. He’s being asked to be even more of a playmaker without George Hill or Gordon Hayward in Utah, averaging a career high 4.3 assists per game. The problem is he’s not shooting. He’s averaging 2 more 3 point attempts a game than last year, but there’s more available for him. It might not be in his DNA to let her rip, but this Jazz team is in desperate need of offense and he seems to be choosy with his 3 point attempts.

Joe Ingles has been amazing defensively and is being asked to do a lot, but that’s what you expect out of a player being paid $14M a year. For all those out there that still hold grudges against Andrei Kirilenko for his contract, he was being paid the same amount per year as Joe Ingles. The Utah Jazz will have to decide if Joe Ingles is a luxury they can afford while in their mini rebuild after Hayward’s exit.

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Derrick Favors

Midseason Grade: B+

Derrick Favors’ “blah, blah, blah” aside, he’s been balling this year in Rudy Gobert’s absence. He’s putting up a career high field goal percentage and is doing so moving from the Power Forward position to the Center position. He’s proving that he can be a modern center. Which does increase his trade value and will increase his value in the free agent market.

While being without Rudy Gobert can never be a net positive, Favors has played well in his absence against the league’s best centers. Approaching the trade deadline it will be interesting to see how the noise affects Favors’ play. Can he tune out the inevitable trade rumors involving himself and continue his stellar play? Also how will he play when Rudy Gobert is brought back from injury?

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Rudy Gobert

Midseason Grade: Incomplete

Rudy Gobert has now missed two months of the season. When he has been on the floor, the Jazz’s defense has been stout, but the offense has suffered. Most of that suffering occurs when Rubio, Favors, and himself share the court at the same time. It’s one of the leagues worst trios. With the trade deadline approaching, Utah might move Favors to free up the space and allow Gobert’s return to flourish.

If Utah does decide to stand pat at the deadline, they will have to figure out what to do about starting Rudy Gobert, Derrick Favors, and Ricky Rubio all together. It was after last year’s trade deadline that they moved Ingles full-time to the SG position and Favors to the bench to nurse his injuries. Could Utah do something similar with Rubio and Favors this year if a trade is not made?

Prior to his injuries Gobert was averaging 11 points and 9 rebounds. They are sorely missing his defense and protecting the paint as the Jazz are sitting at the bottom of the league in defense in his absence. At this point, Rudy’s grade is an incomplete bordering on a B.

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Rodney Hood

Midseason Grade: B+

Hear me out before you come rushing at me with your hot takes. Rodney Hood is averaging a career high in points, 3 point percentage, and minutes per game all while being put in a prime scoring role that is probably out of position for him. He’s been moved from the starting role to the bench role because the Jazz need scoring off the bench and Mitchell plays the same position as him. It’s not that Rodney Hood has been bad this season, it’s just that Mitchell is a VERY special rookie.

I, myself, have fallen prey to comparing Rodney Hood to Donovan Mitchell and diminishing Hood’s efforts in the lens of Mitchell’s once in a franchise rookie campaign. What’s hard with Rodney Hood is figuring out how he fits with Utah going forward. Is he a starting small forward or a gunner off the bench? He’s another piece getting close to the trade deadline that the Jazz have to measure. Do they move him before his big payday to make room for pieces that fit around Gobert and Mitchell, or is he a vital cog to fit around the new Mitchell-Gobert core?

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Thabo Sefolosha

Midseason Grade: A-

So I’m grading on a curve. Sue me. Thabo Sefolosha has been absolutely solid in his minutes with Utah. He was signed in the offseason with a “Prove it” type contract which is non-guaranteed for his second year, and he has been proving he’s worth it. He’s having his best season since 2012-2013 and having a career high FG%. He’s been a +/- wizard when he’s out on the court.

Thabo has made a transition to full-time power forward in the absence of Rudy Gobert, and so far it’s been really successful. Unfortunately, it appears he could be down for the season with a knee injury which is a shame considering how impactful he has been when on the court.

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Alec Burks

Midseason Grade: D+

*Sigh*

Okay, where do we start. It seemed that at the beginning of the season that Alec Burks had been putting it together then it seemed that the Alec Burks of the past three years crawled back into his game. Alec Burks’ play has just been erratic. Some nights he’s a spark plug, other nights his play can put the Jazz right out of a game defensively. He’s an x-factor some nights, and other nights he’s regulated as Plan X.

Maybe Utah is just not the right fit for Government Name. Maybe he’d flourish outside the bounds of the Quin Snyder offense and Utah’s organization. As of right now, he’s been relegated to a bench role with Royce O’Neale, an undrafted rookie, ahead of him on the depth chart. The Jazz could be looking to move him at the trade deadline but they’d probably have to pay a premium for another team to take his contract.

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Royce O’Neale

Midseason Grade: B+

Royce O’Neale has been spectacular. Earlier in the year, I was skeptical of the Jazz releasing Joel Bolomboy for O’Neale. Boy, was I wrong. O’Neale has played stellar minutes. He has a nose for defense and you get 100% effort out of him every. single. play. In January, the rookie wingman is averaging 8 points and 5 rebounds off the bench. For those that don’t think Dennis Lindsey is a good GM, this is one of those reasons why you’re wrong. Lindsey consistently finds good value where others overlook it.

Royce O’Neale just had his first double double last night off the bench, and it looks like he’s going to be getting more minutes as the season rolls on.

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Joe Johnson

Midseason Grade: D

This feels blasphemous to give Joe Jesus a D after raising the Jazz from the dead in the 1st round of the NBA playoffs last year. But it appears Joe’s ministry in Utah is in its last days. Joe Johnson is having his worst year from beyond the arc in his career, only shooting 27.3% from distance. His Box Plus/Minus is the worst in his career at -4.5. He’s a liability on the court and doesn’t help the team.

Right now Joe Johnson is still able to get minutes based on reputation. This might just be the beginning of the end for Johnson as Father Time is finally coming for what is his. Unless Joe Jesus has one last miracle before the end of the season, we could be watching Joe Johnson’s last games in a Jazz uniform this season.

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Raul Neto

Midseason Grade: Incomplete

Before Raul Neto went down with an injury it was looking like he was a better option at point guard than Ricky Rubio. He was hitting the open three with more consistency and looked to be a better fit in the offense. But then a concussion and a subsequent knee injury have kept the Brazilian point guard out. The Jazz have relied upon Joe Ingles and Donovan Mitchell to pick up the slack without him, but one has to wonder if Raul Neto was healthy, what would Ricky Rubio’s minutes look like right now?

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Jonas Jerebko

Midseason Grade: B-

Jonas has put in some amazing minutes in stretches this season. His spacing has helped the Jazz and saved them from the condition of the Rubio, Favors, and Gobert lineup. But his defense is to be desired. He’s playing probably some of the best ball in his career, but the Jazz never anticipated throwing this many minutes at the journeyman stretch 4.

If the Jazz make a deal at the deadline for Nikola Mirotic, we could see Jonas Jerebko’s minutes take a plunge. But Jerebko has answered the bell when his number has been called and has proven his contract was worth the money spent.

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Ekpe Udoh

Midseason Grade: A

Udoh has proved to be the most valuable contract Utah has beyond Gobert and Mitchell. He’s a game changer defensively on the court and could be listed as one of the Top 5-10 defensive players in the league right now. Amazing considering Gobert is in the Top 5. He’s a +/- king when he’s on the court. When he’s in the lineup, the team just plays better. It might not be a coincidence that the Jazz won in Washington when he started. Udoh gives the Jazz some insurance in the future should the Jazz move past Favors and Gobert get hurt. Plus, he’s got a book club. He’s a Jazzman for life.

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Tony Bradley

Midseason Grade: Incomplete

G-League Midseason Grade: A

Tony Bradley hasn’t played many minutes with the Jazz this season as he’s received the Rudy Gobert rookie treatment of spending the season with the G-League team. While with the Stars he’s averaging close to 16 points and 11 rebounds. He’s been stellar with that team and getting a lot of minutes that he wouldn’t have found while with the Jazz. We probably won’t get to see how much progress has been made until summer league this next offseason or next season.

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Dante Exum

Midseason Grade: Incomplete

We didn’t forget about Exum. This one hurts. Much like Neto was chipping away at Rubio’s minutes, it’s hard to imagine a scenario where Exum wouldn’t have been doing the same. Exum and Mitchell had a brotherhood building during summer league that could have flourished this season had the TJ Warren incident not occurred. Hopefully we get a look at Exum this season to see if he can finally capitalize on his potential. Otherwise, Utah has a tough decision to make come this offseason with his contract extension coming up.

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Quin Snyder

Midseason Grade: C+

Yes, Quin Snyder is still one of the best coaches in the game. He develops players out of nothing like O’Neale and Ingles, but he confounds logic when he continues to play guys like Shelvin Mack or Ricky Rubio heavy starting minutes when the stats show what happens. Maybe those decisions are because the Jazz don’t see a scenario where Rubio is able to be traded and they’re trying to maximize their investment. (A bit of sunk cost mindset, but it’s plausible) Maybe Rubio is showing something more in practice than we see in the game. Or the Jazz might not have a lot of good options available without all the injuries.

This season has been a punt year, and some of the flaws in Quin’s coaching game that were masked by better overall talent are not able to hide with this roster.

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Dennis Lindsey

Midseason Grade: B-

Dennis Lindsey has found some exceptional value with Royce O’Neale, Thabo Sefolosha, Jonas Jerebko, and Ekpe Udoh. But his final grade after this season—and before NBA Draft—will be determined by how he handles this trade deadline, for better or for worse. The Jazz have a lot of non-guaranteed and expiring contracts at their disposal along with young talent that could be moved for the right player(s). Dennis Lindsey has proven to be a wizard at the draft, but his only trade at the deadline in his tenure sent off Kanter for chump change. Can he redeem himself this trade deadline?