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Utah Jazz: Checking in on former Jazzmen Rodney Hood and Alec Burks

How are AB and Hoodie doing with the Cleveland Cavaliers this year?

NBA: Cleveland Cavaliers at Miami Heat Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

It seems like ages ago in regular season time that Alec Burks was traded to the Cleveland Cavaliers for Kyle Korver. It seems like a decade ago that Rodney Hood was traded to Cleveland for Jae Crowder. Both of those trades were brought on by the quick development of Donovan Mitchell and the need for increased spacing for the young phenom. But as the phrase goes, “Once a Jazzman, always a Jazzman.” How are the former Jazz guards doing in Midwest?

Let’s catch up.

NBA: Cleveland Cavaliers at Atlanta Hawks Adam Hagy-USA TODAY Sports

Alec Burks

Best game since leaving:

vs. Atlanta Hawks - Dec. 29th, 2018

22 points, 9 rebounds, 9 assists, 2 steals, 3 blocks, 6/6 3PT, 8/16 FG

We’ll start with Alec Burks because he’s the most recent addition to this tanking squad. As Cleveland is in full tank commander mode, they are accruing as many young assets as they can for their older players trying to find a diamond in the rough. Their hope in obtaining Alec Burks was they were getting an underutilized player in Utah’s system and by giving him a higher usage rate, they could get more out of the slashing scorer.

Since acquiring Alec Burks, the results have been mixed. His points, rebounds, and assists per game are all up, but his efficiency is all down.

28.7 mpg, 11.1 ppg, 5.2 rpg, 2.7 apg, 0.8 spg, 34% 3P%, 37.6% FG%

Before he left Utah, Burks’ per game numbers were lower but PER36 he was averaging significantly better efficiency.

19.1 ppg, 3.6 rpg, 2.7 apg, 37% 3P%, 41% FG%

Burks doesn’t have the benefit of better screens provided by Rudy Gobert and Derrick Favors nor the attention of a player like Donovan Mitchell. When Burks is on the floor, he’s sometimes Cleveland’s best offensive threat. Burks has only been with Cleveland for 18 games and a lot of Cleveland’s hodgepodge roster is either injured, sitting out, or MIA—hi, J.R. Smith.

That leaves Burks with playing with a lot of inexperience or lack of talent. He does have his courtmate in Rodney Hood there. Alec Burks has been starting the last 5 games in Cleveland alongside another former Jazzman Rodney Hood. The last three games have shown some promise. Burks has had 2 games with 17 points, 5 rebounds, and 5 assists on 60% shooting. Those were against Miami and Atlanta, but Burks looks to be gaining some consistency.

As what could surprise a lot out there, he actually has 0.2 Defensive Win Shares for the Cavs and is not a net negative in that regard. Maybe the defensive intensity that he learned with Utah is sticking with the swingman. He’s keeping his turnovers down as well. His usage rate is surprisingly low (20% with Cleveland vs 23% with Utah), but he’s making the most of his minutes right now.

Overall, Burks is a good veteran pickup for Cleveland who can be a good locker room presence as they are in this rebuilding year.

NBA: Cleveland Cavaliers at Philadelphia 76ers Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

Rodney Hood

Best game since leaving:

vs Toronto - December 1st, 2018

26 points 6 rebounds 4 assists 3 steals 1 block, 5/9 3PT, 7/13 FG

While Rodney Hood’s inability to find a contract he wanted on the free agency market last summer was well publicized, his impact on the court this year has been muted. He has been battling a sore achilles tendon for the past month and found himself in and out of the lineup due to injury.

When he has been on the court he has been averaging more per game than last year with the Cavaliers, but he’s still below his per game averages for when he was with the Utah Jazz.

12.9 ppg, 2.4 rpg, 2.0 apg, 0.9 spg 38% 3P%, 48.3% FG%

Rodney Hood’s usage rate is down by almost 8 percentage points since his time in Utah. They appear to be using him more of a floor spacer than a playmaker which makes sense. Hood had shown promise as a playmaker before Hayward left, but when given the responsibility more full-time last season, he struggled. He could be used in a pinch next to a star player, but struggled to command the offense on his own. Cleveland also is allowing Sexton to command the rock, so it makes sense in this regard. Hood is only on a one year deal and Sexton’s development takes precedence.

While Burks looks like a piece that Cleveland is going to hold onto—for now—Hood could be starting his journeyman career after this season. Which is sad to see. Hood burst onto the scene with such a great couple of first years that it seemed natural to draw the straight line of his development to a good Option B on offense. His development plateau’d, but he’s still a good floor spacer and off the bench threat.

He’ll get another shot on another team after this season, and could be the beneficiary of a crazy spending spree with so many teams flush with cap space. While he didn’t get a good contract with so many teams holding onto their funds for this next offseason, he’ll get another shot somewhere else and probably for more money.

What’s crazy about tonight’s matchup against these former Jazzmen, is they haven’t played their former team yet. That seems to set the stage for a revenge game. Both players can fill it up and get hot in a hurry if the conditions—or motivation—is right. While Jonas Jerebko needed to be in the right place and right time to punish Utah. Hood and Burks are both streaky shooters. With Utah’s offense struggling currently, if Utah can’t take advantage of Cleveland’s depleted roster on offense, they could find themselves in the precarious position tonight. Are Burks and Hood looking forward to it?

Here’s what Rodney Hood had to say to

“Try to go out and get a win. Play as hard as possible,” Hood said. “Know they’re a good team but it will be good to see some familiar faces. Guys I consider my family. It will be good to talk a little trash. Just have fun with the game but try to get a win also.”

While Rodney Hood was reserved with it, Alec Burks brought his trademarked swag:

“There’s a couple teammates I want to score on, just because I know them,” Burks said. “That’s just because of the personal relationships I have with my old teammates. But I don’t have no vengeance against nobody like that. I’m not mad at nothin’.”

Nothing would warm my heart more than if Alec Burks kept challenging Rudy Gobert at the rim tonight. They always joked about if Gobert had been posterized in practice by Burks. Maybe tonight ... Burks will have a highlight against Gobert that isn’t behind closed doors.

On a personal note, this writer does miss both of them. I had picked Alec Burks to be a sixth man of the year candidate. Utah’s season started off bumpy and they struggled derailing my homerific prediction, but I miss AB and Hoodie. AB was one of the last remnants of the Core Four (TM), and Rodney Hood leaving was just another reminder that the Gordon Hayward era was over.

I hope they both have big games tonight, but also hope the Jazz win by 40. Here’s to both happening.