The Utah Jazz currently straddle the old, traditional view of basketball and the new one at the same time. When these two contrasting philosophies are used in a dynamic way beautiful things can happen. Unfortunately, more than not, trying to meld two opposing forces together leads you to disaster. For example, the sets the team has run over the last few seasons all seem to surround strong point guard play; however, last season the team ran their offense through a small forward. Another anachronism seems to be having drafted or gaining significant size in three of the last five drafts (Derrick Favors, via a trade, and then Enes Kanter, and Rudy Gobert) despite starting a small ball lineup with Marvin Williams getting the call over 75% of the time.
If you want to min/max and get the most out of it you have to be really smart. And when it comes to smarts it's not a bad idea to stock up on coaches, players, and people from the brightest companies and institutions out there. The Jazz are going all-in with the smarties by hiring Dennis Lindsey, whom started his career with the Houston Rockets and San Antonio Spurs franchises. With the hiring of former Spurs developmental league coach Quin Snyder the team also inherited another great pedigree: Duke Basketball.
Which brings us to forward Rodney Hood. I did not watch a lot of Duke games during the last year and I honestly was very neutral on this player. His consensus mock draft position (an aggregate value based on 30 different, professional level, mocks) had him going in the late lotto or middle of the first round. (Loading up the spreadsheet now it gives me a 17.39 value for his expected draft spot.) Rodney was too good to bother really scouting, I felt. He would not go Top 5, and by the time the Jazz would have another draft pick he would have been long gone.
The Utah Jazz may have felt this way as well, they had over 90 players in for predraft workouts, and Hood was not among them. When he became available it only made sense to draft him. (Let's be real, they already knew all about Rodney by that point, he was not some unknown unknown, he was a known known.) Someone who knows all about Rodney Hood is SB Nation Duke Basketball blogger / guru JD King.
Before the draft this is what JD had to say about Hood:
Rodney Hood made an immediate impression at Duke when he arrived from Ole Miss. He was often said to be the best player on the team even though he couldn't play. It didn't take long for him to make an impression once he got on the court.
A wiry player, Hood has a beautiful shot, a willingness to penetrate and a remnant of point guard personality.
Depending on who you ask, Parker and Hood are 6-8 or 6 -9, but whatever height they are, Parker still outweighs Hood by 20-30 pounds. If Parker's challenge is to firm up his body, Hood's is to pack muscle on a skinny frame.
At the moment, Hood's body is vulnerable to NBA toughs. He really has work to do there.
He has been, too, and has won raves from NBA teams for his maturity and commitment.
Hood brings a versatile skill set. He shoots well, he can drive, he can handle the ball and is a vastly superior defender to Parker. He probably won't be an NBA sensation, but rather a reliable and valued contributor.
His biggest problem will be his size. Guys like Kobe Bryant or Kawhi Leonard will give him fits until he bulks up. There may also be some questions about his bouts with nausea before and during games.
Then again, maybe not. Bill Russell threw up regularly before games; his teammates learned to expect it.
Don't be surprised if Hood goes earlier than projected simply because he's outworked a lot of people in the run-up to the draft.
I have to come clean here, a large part of my analysis of players I don't watch ends up being based upon the measurables. With his weight I had him slotted as someone who would end up having to play shooting guard in the NBA. So when he was consistently listed as a small forward it made me pause. He has bulked up over the season by my initial measurement for his weight was someone under 200 pounds. The Jazz have had tall, skinny guys before -- two of the most exciting in recent years were Andrei Kirilenko and Jeremy Evans. And both have played power forward for the team at times. So weight isn't all there is to a player. And Hood is a great example of that. And Hood is likely to be someone to benefit from the Jazz' hands-on approach towards physical strength and conditioning. He'll get bigger. Maybe not too much more, but he'll gain in strength where he needs it most.
Hood already has implicit strengths, we know all about his shooting, his potential for a post up game, and his passing. The biggest one for me was on display in the bowels of the Barclays center on draft night as he just broke down and cried in front of a group of reporters and associated media personnel. He's a small town guy with a big heart, and that speaks to me. (I'm originally from a place that has a 2011 census population of 285.) He's strong and mature, and knows has a great head on his shoulders. His perspective is refreshing, and he will not take being a first round draft pick lightly.
After he was picked, JD King had this to add:
He didn't go as early as many expected, but Utah could be a great spot for Rodney Hood.
Former Duke Blue Devil Rodney Hood went to Utah with the #23 pick in the 2014 NBA draft, where he'll play for new coach Quin Snyder, himself of course a former Dukie.
That's a young team - 12 players listed currently are under the age of 26.
Hood will have a minor advantage as he's likely familiar with a lot of Snyder's ideas, having seen some of them in Durham already.
Yeah, every little bit is going to help. Especially if the Jazz are going to figure out what side of the "traditional" vs "modern" style of basketball they want to play. Hood is still a wing in my mind, however, he could see some spot minutes as a stretch four. After all, he can't be worse at it than Mike Harris or Malcolm Thomas were. Those players were Developmental League talent, Hood is a 1st round draft pick who could have gone in the lottery.
Jazz fans will get their first chance to see him in Las Vegas for the NBA Summer League 2014. (Partial roster here) I am excited to see his dead-eye shooting in a Utah jersey. With the changing game you need quality and consistent shooting from all spots on the floor; and Hood projects to play from a few of them. I trust in Jazz GM Dennis Lindsey and head coach Quin Snyder fully. I think Hood is going to be a great fit here.
He's ready to step up to this next challenge in his young life, and I am certain his play on the court will answer a lot of questions. For fans, and for the front office alike.