clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Utah Jazz guard Rodney Hood is Mercury

New, comments

The three in one, the one in three.

Jennifer Stewart-USA TODAY Sports

What do you know about basketball? For me, someone who has been absolutely captivated by it for decades, I know that I cannot possibly know enough about it. One can watch the game, pour over scouting reports, calculate statistics, and converse with other people with the same brain-illness (where ball truly is life) . . . and the end result should be that you know just how deep the game is. In a way it's like knowing about the universe. The observable part is just a mere portion of what's out there. And as above, so below. You don't need to be Hermes Trismegistus to understand the vastness of it all. Similarly, you don't need to be Ray Allen, the God of Three pointers, to understand the game. One thing I do know is that the more and more data we get leads me to believe that the Utah Jazz starting shooting guard Rodney Hood is Mercury incarnate.

So what is Mercury? It's a God, a Planet, and a metal. It is three things in one. And the more properties we try to limit it by the more and more it's mystery deepens. And this is Rodney Hood to a three.

As a Deity, Mercury is a combination of the earlier Greek Hermes and the Etruscan Turms. In all avatars, the tricky God is clever, smart, mercantile, and "a God of transitions and boundaries." That's truly where this God of Athletics excels -- he more than any other Jazzman in history is absolutely owning the three point shot, especially in transition. The messenger fits Quin Snyder's ball sharing offense perfectly, being able to be a true triple threat out there with his playmaking, scoring, and shooting.

As a celestial body, Mercury is the closest one to the Sun in our Solar system. It has a quick orbital period compared to larger planets out there, and in a way is lauded for its' quickness. It's just not very fast as it rotates three times for every two revolutions of the star. But we know from watching basketball that being quick and being fast are two different things. No one is going to put Hood on an all-track meet team, but in the halfcourt he knows how to generate his momentum and create his own space to operate. The main property of Mercury that fits Rodney is that it's both hot and cold at the same time. From day to night it can vary by as much as 1080 degrees F (600 degrees C or K). The planet is also very bright on its' own, but it's proximity to the star makes it hard to see. This is really the developing relationship between Hood and Gordon Hayward.

And as an element he's liquid cool at room temperature. Everyone knows Mercury as quicksilver, but it's not fast. It's adaptable, including it's own physical structure. We use this metal today in many diagnostic tools, from thermometers, barometers, and everything in-between all the way to sphygmomanometers. It is used to measure everything from how hot someone is, to how hot the world is. Rodney Hood is that for the Jazz. And he's the one who has a ridiculous amount of volatility -- to the point that he's the human heat check. I honestly believe that when he's on, no one else on the Jazz can touch him. And when he has been on, no one on the other team can either.

If we delve into the taboo realm of esoterism, Mercury is a magical component to many spells and alchemical processes. The most learned sages hoarded it, and the richest of men ingested it thinking that it was the pathway to immortality. Hood is an intangible through and through. We know he's valuable, but do not yet know enough about him. Bottom line, is that you want him. Badly.

I truly feel as though Hood embodies all of the magic, mysticism, and more mundane properties of the God/Planet/Metal. And while the 23 year old is just in his second season and starting . . . he is really going to get much better. Can you imagine how good he's going to be in his sixth season? I don't think anyone can honestly find his limit right now. The only thing we can do is look at his on-court performances so far. And true to his mercurial nature, there's good to be celebrated, and some things to be careful about.

Rodney Hood is shooting better:

As a rookie Rodney Hood started 21 games. And he shot 41.4 FG% while taking 7.5 shots a game. This season he's performing better. He has started all 48 games he was healthy for, and is shooting 42.1 FG%. He is also shooting more per game, 12.1 times! So, to recap: he's shooting more frequently, and making more than he did last year. This is not usually what happens. The purity of his shot cannot be challenged, as he has upped his performance at the stripe from 76.3 FT% as a rookie to 88.1 FT% in his soph season. The only thing you can question would be his shot from deep. He shot 36.5% from downtown in his first NBA season. This year he's shooting 36.4%. That's down, but let's not ignore that he only shot 3.4 threes a game last season, and is shooting 5.4 threes a game THIS year. Again, shooting more doesn't usually mean shooting better. But in this case he's shooting +54% more and shooting just 0.07% worse. It is remarkable.

For his career his numbers now sit at .419 / .364 / .836. That's objectively not amazing. The deities shoot .500 / .400 / .900. That's not what Rodney is shooting. So why then do we hold fast onto the concept of Rodney being a 'shooter'? Well, subjectively we like how his shot looks. Secondly, we do know that he can get really hot. And third, well, he's still just a soph. He can get much better and more consistent with time. Then again, can one change the properties of Mercury? I don't know, but we are totally into the idea of Hood being more than just Good, but Great at shooting.

If you look at his season so far (Utah Jazz have played 50 games), his field goals made and missed paint a conflicting picture.

Rodney Hood Game by Game:

This is how Hood has shot from game to game this year. The Dark Blues are makes, the Yellows are misses.

Rodney Hood Mercury - 50 by Date

This doesn't look "good", if we're being objective, and it's a real representation of what shooting 42% from the field looks like. If you instead organize this by FGM you get something that is at least a little more pleasing to the eye.

Rodney Hood Mercury - 50 by FGM

When he's making shots he approaches a 50/50 shot at making every shot. In this way we can convince ourselves that the Rodney Hood "green light" is worth it in the end. Behold!

Rodney Hood Mercury - Green Light

Furthermore, recency bias is a great thing. This is what Rodney's shooting looks like from each 10 Game stretch of the season. Right now he's shooting a LOO-OOT more, but he's making more as well. (Yes, I know, positive feedback loop is positive.)

Rodney Hood Mercury - 50 by 10 Game

If you dig deeper and look at the last 20 games you see that Rodney is hitting for 50 FG% much more frequently than ever before.

Rodney Hood Mercury - Last 20

That's 9 of the last 19 games played. Sure, he didn't kill it against the Spurs, but did torch the Rockets once, and his scoring has been very important during this last little stretch. And I guess that's the thing about Mercury: when you have His favor, go crazy with it. And it's that recency which really fuels our ideals, that Rodney is going to be a legit shooter and scorer for the Jazz. He's averaging 14.6 ppg for the season, and in January that number was 18.6 ppg. So far in february it's 18.8 ppg. We're going to take this recency bias as far as possible, which I guess is the elemental nature of Mercury.

Not everything that looks silver is silver:

It's important to also recognize that while Rodney is playing better now, it doesn't mean that he's exceptionally dominant right now. In my mind when a player is on a hot streak that means he's shooting something like 55% from the field. In January Rodney still shot 45.7% and in February that's down to 43.1%. He's shooting better. Yes. Undeniable. But he's not consistent just yet.

For the season he has gone 244 / 579 from the field. That's making 42.14% of his shots. That's better than, say, going for 38%. But it's still not an objectively "good" percentage. When we check all the game by game data, he has a FG% standard deviation of +/- 13.18%. So on any given night it's normal for him to shoot 28.96% or 55.32%. When you plug in the most recent data this means he has a volatility of 31.97%. (See previous research on Rodney Hood here for an explanation.) Back then I concluded that he wasn't reliable, but he was relentless. Today I have to feel as though his inherent streaky-ness is just a part of the difficulty when it comes to shooting the shots that he does. And an inherent nature of being someone who can get really hot leads to being someone who has a lower overall average. Don't get me wrong. Hood raises his game. But that means that there's some place where he has to raise it up from. The data supports this theory.

The most apples to apples comparison I can think of is . . . every other single shooting guard in New Orleans / Utah Jazz history. There have been 55 players who have regularly played shooting guard for this franchise. And if you add up all of their numbers from regular season and playoff games, from their rookie years to their final years, in lockout shortened seasons to NBA Finals games . . . you get a position that shoots 34,764 for 75,879 from the field.

In the grand, total, complete history of Jazz shooting guards you have someone who shoots 45.82% from the field. This number is from the sum total of everyone from the likes of Pete Maravich, Jeff Hornacek, Jeff Malone, Darrell Griffith, and Ron Boone to the stalwarts Greg Deane, Tim Legler, Andre Owens, Othyus Jeffers, and Toure' Murry. It's a data set that's 190,046 games long. And when you add it up, that 45.82% is a larger number than Hood's 41.87%.

But you know what?

Using FG% as an indicator of shooting ability for Today's game is limiting:

FG% is great. It's great in a world without free throws and three pointers. For traditional bigmen it's invaluable. For today's modern wing players who slash, get to the line, and take more and more three pointers? Not so much. Yes, by FG%, Hood is the 29th best shooting guard out of 55 in Jazz history. His 9.72 FGA per game at his low level of 'making' is problematic compared to, say, someone like Gail Goodrich who shot 12.12 times a game in a Jazz uniform and made 47.07% of his shots. In fact, if you group these guards by FGA per game, Hood's 41.87% looks really out of place compared to everyone else in his neighborhood who shot much better. But similarly out of place is comparing FG% in an era where we have more descriptive stats to use.

Hood is 11th in FGA per game at 9.72, 17th in FTA per game at 2.18, but most importantly, 2nd in 3PTA per game at 4.40. (Only Randy Foye's 5.29 threes a game is higher.) And Hood is shooting so many threes as a portion of all of his FGA that he's already 8th ALL-TIME on the Jazz list for career 3PTA. Of all of the players ahead of Hood in overt scoring none of them take as many threes. The closest to him from that top tier SG list is Hornacek, who took 20.89% of all of his FGA as 3PTA. Hood currently sits at 45.23% of all of his shots being from downtown. In total history, the only guys who shot a higher proportion of their shots from distance are Randy Foye (58.81%), Chris Johnson (53.98%), Elliot Williams (53.85%), Brandon Rush (52.22%), Ian Clark (50.45%), and Kyle Korver (47.66%).

Hood is more outside oriented than the old guard, literally. That helps absolve in part his low FG%. When you look at the Top 25 of these 55 guards you get an interesting distribution between eFG% and TS% that better places Hood's body of work so far.

Rodney Hood Mercury - eFG vs TS

Yellow = Average, Green = Hood

See, now instead of looking like a high volume chucker he looks to be an above average shooter. Which he is. The players of note with a better total eFG% than him are Kyle Korver (the massive outlier there with 55.74 eFG% and 59.77 TS%), Jeff Hornacek, Ronnie Brewer, Blue Edwards, Wesley Matthews, Randy Foye, Shandon Anderson, Bob Hansen, and Calbert Cheaney. The players with a better TS% than Hood are Korver, Hornacek, Brewer, Edwards, Foye, Anderson, and Jeff Malone. So he's 10th and 9th respectively in these two shooting stats -- and some of the guys ahead of him really didn't take a lot of threes and were paint oriented scorers.

I am confident in a 23 year old Hood being up there behind Korver, Hornacek, and Jeff Malone. He's going to get better. He's going to improve his already great shot selection. And he's going to make a lot of shots for the Jazz going forward.

Mercury:

While most of this (all of this?) has just looked at his shooting I think it's fair to say that there's more to Hood than just that. His decision making. His passing vision. His "I got this" aspect to his game. There's more than what we can just see, and similarly, there's only so much we know of mercury. There's so much hidden because it's right next to the Sun. There's so many secrets it has as the messenger between the worlds of God, men, and death. And there's just so much more we are trying to figure out with increasingly more quantitative investigations of his very structure and properties. What we do know is that Rodney Hood is quick, not fast; he's great in the between world of three point line to three point line; and that while he's streaky he is dangerous in large doses.

There are dumb nicknames that, if anything, relate only to a player's initials and number. There are great nicknames that describe a player and his game. Some nicknames are great. Some are not. Most nicknames do not stick, yet some persist for decades. I don't think mercury is going to endure as a nickname for Hood. I'm cool with that. But from what little we know about Hood's emerging game, and what little we know about the God, the Planet, and the substance, I see a clear affinity there.

Rodney Hood is Mercury, the alchemist's favorite player in the NBA.