After the Utah Jazz took Dante Exum with the fifth pick in the NBA Draft, a lot of people wondered if the Jazz would even keep the other picks they owned Thursday night. They did keep the pick, and got what a lot of people believe was a steal, when Rodney Hood from Duke fell below what he was projected.
Hood had a fantastic season at Duke this past year. He averaged 16.4 points, 3.9 rebounds, and 2.1 assists per game, while shooting 47.0% from the floor. Hood also shot very well from beyond the three point line, shooting 42.0%. Standing at 6’8″ and weighing in at 215 pounds, Hood has good size for an NBA wing player, and seems to be a great fit as a back up to Gordon Hayward.
Hayward is coming off a season where he averaged 16.2 points, 5.2 assists, and 5.1 rebounds per game. Hayward was only one of four players in the entire league to average better than 15/5/5 for the season, the others were Kevin Durant, LeBron James, and Michael Carter-Williams. However, Hayward is entering free agency beginning on July 1st.
While Hayward is going through the free agent process, every indication from the Utah Jazz front office points to Hayward returning to Utah next year. The Jazz have the right to match any offer the Hayward receives during the off season, thanks to the Jazz extending a qualifying offer to Hayward before the June 30th deadline, and making him a restricted free agent.
Hayward should be starting at the small forward position next season for the Jazz. With the Jazz drafting Exum, and already having Trey Burke and Alec Burks on the roster, Hayward won’t have much need to slide over to the shooting guard position. For Hood, though, he can step in and play either position.
As I said earlier, Hood has great size for an NBA wing, and with his shooting ability can slide over and play shooting guard if needed, and has fantastic size for an NBA shooting guard. Mainly, it looks like Hood will be asked to play behind Hayward at the small forward though, however, it will depend on who is in the back court to determine where Hood will be placed.
If the Jazz have Trey and Alec on the court together, or Trey and Dante, or even Dante and Alec for that matter, then Hood will mainly play on the wing behind Hayward. If the Jazz decide to have two of those mentioned guards rest, then Hood could slide over to the shooting guard position, while Hayward would come back in and play back on the wing.
There is a lot of possibilities on what the Jazz could do this upcoming season, but Hood has potential. The one thing that will be in question is he needs to be better on the defensive end. If you watch tape on him, there are a lot of plays where he has a poor defensive stance, is caught chasing his opponent, or seemingly gives up on the play. Those are things that won’t give him playing time. However, in the introductory press conference on Friday, Hood mentioned that he is wanting to play defense. If he is, it will have to be better than the defense he played in college.
Hood’s size and shooting ability makes him someone that can come in and step in right away as Hayward’s back up. His defense will be something the Jazz worry about. However, he comes from a good program in Duke, where you are expected to win. If he can keep that same mentality with the Jazz, it could help out immensely for him.
As I said in my article about how Dante fits with the Jazz, there will be some bumps and bruises that we can expect from these young guys next season, but the future is very bright in Utah. It seems like the season is forever away, but we can get a quick taste of what Rodney Hood, as well as Exum, can do when he participates in the Las Vegas Summer League with the Jazz in a couple weeks.