If you fast forwarded last season's year of non-development in Utah Jazz land we can argue that it was all a prelude to the NBA Draft. Utah was bumped down in the lotto, but won the tie break against Boston, and ended up with the #5 pick in the draft. On draft night the Jazz front office told the media that they didn't want three rookies, despite having three 1st round picks, yet here we are in December with three rookies amongst the Top 30 rookies this season.
Sadly, all three (Dante Exum, Rodney Hood, and Joe Ingles) are distant ideas compared to the on court production of others in their rookie class. Joe is playing 18+ mpg, which is actually Top 10 in the league this year for rookies; however, he is one of the least overt players on the court -- perhaps he is a non-impact player? If you sort the data in any other meaningful way beyond total minutes or MPG he's no where.
Dante Exum shows flashes of brilliance, like Top 10 player in the league brilliance, but he is so passive right now. He looks to pass, which is great, but sometimes he floats on the court, not even being a part of plays. He's young, he'll become awesome. He's just not there yet -- which is why I find it funny that people want him to START. He has a PER of 7.7. He shoots worse than 60 ft% as a point guard. His time will come, but he really just needs to keep playing.
Rodney Hood, a preseason pick for steal of the draft, has had a hard time with his outside shot this season. He also missed 10 games to plantar fasciitis. Do I think that a dude like Kostas Papanikolaou is better than him? Never. That's like saying Luigi would win a fight against Bruce Lee.
All three are playing less than 20 mpg, and more than 15 mpg. Of course, we just wouldn't have wanted Ingles to be the guy playing the most. And, yes, "we don't want three rookies" needs to go back in the Jazz PR phrasebook next to "we don't do mistakes" (which in itself is a grammatical error), "we don't pay people not to play" (which ignores Luther Wright, Raja Bell, Andris Biedrins, Jordan Hamilton, and Carrick Felix), and "fans owe Richard Jefferson."
But how do our rookies compare to the rest of their class? Right now, not very favorably.
There are 10 spots for the two All-Rookie teams, and probably about as many for the mid-season Rising Stars Challenge. Not getting one of our three (if not more) on those two lists retards their national (and international) recognition -- and slows down their progress towards being a star player. On a team with none, it would be good to at least try to not make the same mistakes as the last four seasons.
Both lists are mostly not at all position locked, so it's just the best of the best.
The Top 10 by scoring are:
- Jabari Parker (12.2 ppg)
- Andrew Wiggins (11.7 ppg)
- K.J. McDaniels (10.3 ppg)
- Bojan Bogdanovic (10.1 ppg)
- Nerlens Noel (7.9 ppg)
- Zach LaVine (7.4 ppg)
- Nikola Mirotic (7.3 ppg)
- Shabazz Napier (6.8 ppg)
- Elfrid Payton (6.7 ppg)
- Kostas Papanikolaou (6.4 ppg)
The Top 10 by rebounding are:
- Nerlens Noel (6.3 rpg)
- Jabari Parker (6.1 rpg)
- Tarik Black (5.6 rpg)
- Nikola Mirotic (5.2)
- Kostas Papanikolaou (4.3)
- K.J. McDaniels (3.8 rpg)
- Andrew Wiggins (3.6 rpg)
- Elfrid Payton (3.4 rpg)
- Jusuf Nurkic (3.3 rpg)
- (tie) Bojan Bogdanovic and Aaron Gordon (3.0 rpg)
And the Top 10 by assists per game are:
- Elfrid Payton (5.0)
- Kostas Papanikolaou (3.1)
- (tie) Zach LaVine and Dante Exum (2.2)
- Shabazz Napier (2.1)
- (tie) Jabari Parker and Joe Ingles (1.7)
- Nerlens Noel (1.5)
- Marcus Smart (1.3)
- (tie) K.J. McDaniels , Nikola Mirotic, and Andrew Wiggins (1.1)
(Numbers are jacked because of the ties)
The Utah trio doesn't make any noise except when it comes to passing. (Rodney Hood is #14 in apg too!) If you look at Assist to Turn over ratio things look fine as well, with Hood being #4, Exum being #5, and Ingles being #7. Furthermore, when you look at AST% Dante is #3, Joe is #6, and Rodney is #14.
So you have a group of guys who are passers. Funny, a lot of those letters are also used in the word passive.
I think the Jazz need a difference maker, and the players who look to be that are the ones making larger splashes so far this season. The Top 5 players in BARPS (Bpg + Apg + Rpg + Ppg + Spg) are Jabari Parker, Nerlens Noel, Andrew Wiggins, K.J. McDaniels, and Elfrid Payton. They play for Milwaukee, Philly, Minnesota, Philly, and Orlando. And all of them are getting almost as much unfiltered minutes as possible.
For the Jazz, a 5 win team, Dante, Rodney, and Joe all come off the bench. And honestly, they all pretty much should based upon their on court performance. Dante, who also has way better defensive instincts than a number of NBA vets, still shouldn't be starting -- especially not when he's only shooting .366 / .289 / .591. The only way he deserves to start while shooting like that is if he's Rajon Rondo. Or 7'4.
If you look at their pure production over the time they get on the court, Ingles is #27 of 30 players, and Dante is #22. Rodney, who plays the least per game, is #16, so just barely below average for the Top 30 of this rookie class. They are going to get better, I hope. But I don't know if our Aussies will play more aggressively or not. I hope they do. They are really talented.
Yeah, but your stats are nothing, Amar. Give me the straight dope with PER. Okay, our guys are #22, 23, and 24 by PER in this rookie class.
So how do I turn this around? Easy.
- The players we added / drafted are players we drafted for who they will become eventually, not this season
- The players are just getting their feet wet in the league, and will obviously be better as they get more experience
- The only Utah Jazz player to get WORSE after their rookie year, who played a lot of minutes, was Jarron Collins. There are no Jarron Collins' on the team this year
- Dante Exum is learning on the job, and at times he looks absolutely amazing
- Rodney Hood is in a shooting slump
- Joe Ingles is trying to fit in, and is sublimating his game for cohesion right now, as a vet he is the most likely candidate to understand why this is important, and also be able to do it
- It's just the start of December
And probably most importantly, Dante's minutes are sure to go up, and he will get enough minutes to no longer be so far out of sight, and out of mind. And if people don't catch on this year, they'll be all over him next year when he's FINALLY no longer a teenager.
I have absolute faith in the Jazz scouting department, and the current direction the team is heading in. After one month our rookies don't look that great, but we believe in them. After all, after one month Gordon Hayward, Alec Burks, Enes Kanter, and Rudy Gobert all didn't look amazing either -- but we feel as though they are legit rotation players on a good basketball team.