It's the last day of the 2015-2016 Regular season! We made it, just kinda! The Utah Jazz need some help if they are going to make the playoffs, but with how the lotto is, they are going to need some help there too. We take a look at our starting wings: Rodney Hood and Gordon Hayward. And also take a trip down memory lane with the Mamba. Screw him.
So this is it. The last day of the regular season. There are 14 games being played, meaning that 28 teams are finishing up 82 games tonight. Out East we know which teams are in the playoffs and which teams are not -- but the order of the #3 seed down to the #10 seed could be altered with how things go tonight. In the West seven of eight playoff teams are determined, with the Houston Rockets and Utah Jazz still with some unfinished business. It's going to be an important night for everyone not named: the Golden State Warriors, San Antonio Spurs, Cleveland Cavaliers, Toronto Raptors, Oklahoma City Thunder, Los Angeles Clippers, New Orleans Pelicans, Minnesota Timberwolves, Phoenix Suns, Brooklyn Nets, Los Angeles Lakers, and Philadelphia 76ers. There is a general state of flux for most of the NBA that only playing the games can resolve. After that it's up to the tie-breaker Gods which are going to hurt the Utah Jazz when it comes to playoff seed, and with our luck hurt the team again if they tie anyone else for ping pong balls.
It's sad because I had expected the team to make the playoffs and didn't waver in that opinion at all for the last few months. I'm being proven wrong with the play of the team over the stretch run of April. For the record, I went 6 for 8 in predicting the East playoff teams (expecting more out of Chicago and Washington) and 7 for 8 in the West (replacing Portland with Utah).
For the record, the Jazz still could make the playoffs this year. They are in with a Jazz win and a Rockets loss.
It could happen. But the point here is to learn to clinch the playoffs earlier in April instead of having to hope things work out for you on the last week.
Rodney Hood is mercury. This we know. Sometimes he's super slick and unstoppable. Other times he is straight up poison to his own team. He's still only finishing up his second year in the league, is 23 years old, and in this season alone has racked up 42% of all of Alec Burks' career regular season minutes (2523 / 5965). He's getting the opportunity early to play, and has been gifted a consistent role to play very early on in his career. So while his play game to game isn't that consistent, the chances he is getting is -- and in the end we hope he ends up being someone more consistent as he matures. He has a chance to do that and eclipse a lot of other young Jazz guards who didn't have that stable environment for development, like Burks, C.J. Miles, Morris Almond, Kevin Murphy et al.
The potential is there, and we do see it. At times during certain games Hood becomes the very avatar of "buckets" and can't miss. He's more than just a shooter, with the ability to drive, see the floor, and pass. On offense he could be something special. It's not just Jazz fans who have taken notice, everyone seems to have by now. It's encouraging, unless we're all wrong.
17. Rodney Hood
Well, look at that -- another young guy making incredible strides early in his career. Going into the season, he wasn't seen as the Jazz's most promising prospect at shooting guard; that would be Alec Burks, who is only now close to returning from an injury that's kept him out since Christmas. Even before that, though, Burks was stamping his name on the position. He's an outside shooter who can catch fire, even though he's slumped in recent weeks, and he's got surprising skill off the dribble passing and shooting. He's long and fits well into the Jazz's swarming defense, as well. Next year, the Jazz are going to have one of those good problems in their guard rotation (well, we'll see about point guard).
That's good right? Ranked ahead of Devin Booker, Tony Allen, and Zach LaVine; but behind Evan Fournier / Victor Oladipo (somehow one spot), Courtney Lee, Danny Green, and Wesley Matthews?
I don't think that Hood is ever going to be a remarkable defender, so for me he's going to have to really become consistent on offense. And as a shooting guard this means the most appreciable way to observe consistency would be in making shots. Over his last 15 games we haven't seen that.
He has taken, on average, 13.8 shots a game and made 5.8 of them. In another way, that's someone who misses 8.0 shots a game. His average FG% was 42.03% +/- 20.23%. Yeah. His standard deviation has been almost 20% of his mean value. That's not reliable at all. He's either hot or cold. He's the McDLT of the Utah Jazz.
With time he hope he averages it out to be a 45 to 46% shooter from the floor. And he has the potential to be very, very good still. It will be exciting to see if he brings anything new to his game next season.
Gordon Hayward has had a remarkable season. He will play in 80 of 82 games as the primary option for this team and needs just 39 more points this season to finish it with a 20.0 ppg average. He also needs just 39 more minutes to reach 2900 for the season. If Gordon was to finish the season with a 20.0 ppg average he would be the 11th Jazzman of all-time to ever do it, it would be the 41st season it has ever happened to a Jazzman, and be the first time it's happened since 2010-2011 with Deron Williams' 21.3 ppg in those 53 games he played for the team.
As for the high minutes mark, he would be just the 12th player in Jazz history to reach at least 2900 regular season minutes in a season, it would be the 33rd time it's ever happened, and it would be the first time it's happened since Al Jefferson did it back in 2010-2011.
Numerically he is putting his name up there in the Jazz record books. Recency bias may even make some of us believe he is better than Andrei Kirilenko (but data does not support that point of view when looking at their first six seasons against one another). On the other hand, while Hayward is getting the most opportunities to star, and at times has played like one (the Clippers game resonates in my mind, or the road win against the Mavericks), he may still be best suited to being a complimentary player.
Unless he plays like this 70 times a year, reliably
Non-race fixated NBA observers have dubbed him White-Pippen -- in reference and reverence to the Hall of Famer, and probably the best 2nd banana of all-time, Scottie Pippen. There are similarities between their all-around games; however, let's not get ahead of ourselves. When both were at the ripe old age of 25, Gordon (this season) has put up a 19.8 ppg, 5.0 rpg, 3.7 apg, 1.2 spg line. Pip had a slightly different kind of year with 17.8 ppg, 7.3 rpg, 6.2 apg, and 2.4 spg. Gordon got to the line much more and shot better from there, and took five times more three pointers per game and shot better from there as well. But Pip was a lockdown defender there who was a triple double threat.
Gordon is now one game away from finishing up his 6th season in the NBA. He's in his prime. He's always gotten consistent playing time and had the least inconsistency of role over his career compared to the other 2010 / 2011 / 2012 / 2013 draft picks. This season he was heads and shoulders over the rest, and was the primary reason why the team was even in the playoff hunt despite all the injuries.
The question we struggle with remains to be where he actually is in terms of being able to not just take a team to 1st and goal, but be someone to carry a team into the end zone and score. Utah's front office doubled down on the theory of having a lot of non-stars instead of having an actual star on the roster. It didn't work this time around.
So is Gordon the guy, or are we Jazzfans still rooting for a planetary system with no star? (And then no light, heat, or reliable gravity and order?)
Speaking of the Los Angeles Lakers, and the theoretical retirement of Kobe Bryant . . . where does he rank all-time as a Jazz killer?