What Are the Cavs Doing with Rodney Hood?

Rodney Hood was an inexpensive piece of last season's roster overhaul. Now he's an inexpensive piece of the worst roster in the NBA. Will the Cavaliers extend a contract offer or ship him out?

In life, as in the NBA, things can change quickly. One year you're an announcer for a team featuring one of the two best players of all time, pretending that you're concerned about losing to a 59-win Toronto team in the playoffs, and the next year you're getting amped up about George Hill 18-footers to tie up an early-November game against the Orlando Magic.

While life has certainly thrown a curve to Cavaliers play-by-play commentator Fred McLeod, consider the case of Rodney Hood.

Prior to last winter, Rodney Hood had spent 3.5 promising seasons with the Utah Jazz. Some highlights from his time with the Jazz:

  • He won Western Conference rookie of the month once (Andrew Wiggins won it four of the other five months)
  • He was named to the Rising Stars Challenge in his 2nd season and scored 11 points
  • He started 79 games in year two, averaging over 14 points
  • He made almost 37% of his three-pointers overall
  • He had multiple 30-point games in his Jazz tenure
  • He was a key off-the-bench cog in the fantastic 7-game series win vs. the Clippers in 2017

By the time Rodney Hood was traded to Cleveland (February 8, 2018), he was being eyed as a good young player who had the ability to break out on occasion. He could hit threes, he could get to the free-throw line, he was a mid-level defender, and he was only 25-years-old. (The Jazz no longer needed him when they saw the emergence of Donovan Mitchell as their best option among 2-guards.)

Then things changed.

Since his arrival in Cleveland, Hood has been up and down...but mostly down. His numbers took an across-the-board step backward in the 21 games he played as a Cavalier last season, and the playoffs were not kind to him. Similarly, this season is off to a shaky start. It's time for a pros and cons list on Rodney Hood and his first dozen games of this season.

Pros

1) Rodney Hood has been an average-or-better three-point shooter for most of his career. League average since his rookie year is 35.5%. Hood has been better than that mark every season.

2) Hood is shooting over 90% on free-throws this season, while being 83% for his career; we know he can shoot.

3) Rodney Hood has started - or played significant minutes - on several very good teams. He is an experienced vet, in some sense, despite not being an old guy.

4) He's young. Hood just turned 26-years-old in October.

5) Cost. Rodney Hood's contract for the remainder of this season is incredibly team-friendly. He's owed $3.47 million and nothing more. That's extremely low for a double-digit scorer, even if there are some cons.

Cons

1) Rodney Hood looks lost on defense. That may be unfair, as the entire Cavaliers team looks lost on defense, but Hood hasn't been much help.

2) Hood is missing a lot of shots. So far this season he's below league-average from the field and was abysmal from deep through the first ten games. Both of those stats are, you know, important in basketball - particularly for a player whose primary skill is scoring.

3) The shots he's taking - and missing - are bad shots. While the NBA transitions away from mid-range jumpers and focuses on three-pointers or layups, Hood has taken 59% of his shots from the mid-range. Fifty-nine percent! That is a staggering number, and it places him in the 98th percentile among wing players, per Cleaning the Glass. This is one of those cases where being in a high percentile is bad.

4) Even the good shots aren't going in. Hood is making just 31% of his shots on drives to the basket through his first 12 games, per nba.com. Cleveland is struggling mightily as a team in this area, but Hood is exceptionally low.

5) The Cavs are very bad, and putting a normal player on a bad team makes that player look worse.

So What Should the Cavaliers Do?

Obviously, there are two choices: Keep him or trade him.

Keep him

The long-term stats suggest that Rodney Hood will course-correct and shoot better for the rest of this season. It's pretty unlikely that he holds onto career lows in three-point percentage and three-point attempts, so he could have value for this team as a moderately talented wing. For example, the 31% he's making on drives to the basket is nightmarish, but last season he converted on 47% of these shots. That's a useful skill for a team that's struggling to score.

You might be thinking "but the Cavs are going nowhere and Rodney Hood's contract is only through this season." You're right. But there's a wrinkle here. Evidence suggests that Hood is better than his current productivity, right? Well, then isn't this the perfect time to extend a low-ish contract offer? Why not offer him three or four years at a much-cheaper-than-Clarkson deal? The Cavs could hope that committing to his future will help him work out of his slump and get back to the level of basketball that his believers (looking at you, Andrew Sharp of Sports Illustrated) are sure he can reach.

Keeping Hood is also appealing because the Cavs can say "Hey, nobody offered you a deal this past summer and now you're playing some crappy basketball. This might be your only option." He's not exactly a high-profile piece to build around as a franchise, but it's a hard-line negotiation tactic for the Cavs to have an affordable, not-terrible wing for the next few years.

Additionally, if the Cavaliers re-sign Rodney Hood to a new contract, a new coach and a new system could right the ship. Going from Quin Snyder's half-court offense to - boy, I don't even know what you call the Cavs' current style - hasn't been a great fit for Hood.

Trade him

Keeping a guy because he's on a cheap contract, has a notable skill (despite his current slump), and is pretty young is OK in theory, but aren't those all things that a trade partner is looking for? By trading for Rodney Hood last season, the Cavs showed that Hood's contract is a major draw for teams looking to add a player. Guys who've had similar seasons at similar ages to Hood's 2017-18 numbers include John Wall, Malcolm Brogdon, Avery Bradley, and Allen Crabbe. Those players have either already signed bloated contracts or are about to get a nice payday. If Hood is a $12-$15 million per year player, the Cavaliers should run the other way. They should take what they can get in return and be happy with that.

Obviously, it's rebuilding time in Cleveland. If management (in their infinite wisdom) can admit that, and they admit that Rodney Hood is not the answer, then they should ship him off to a contender the same way Utah did in February. If the Cavs could pull a late-first round pick out of it or acquire someone younger/under team control longer, then that's the play. Or maybe the Cavs could package Hood with someone else, opening up all sorts of new trade options.

There will be trades available out there, particularly if Hood can return to form. Even if he can't, putting him into an offense that gets him three-pointers instead of 19-footers would see better returns.

It's important to note that games 11 and 12 of this season saw Hood shoot a slightly higher percentage of his shots from deep, where he went 4-7, so perhaps the ship is being righted as we speak. On the other hand, the Cavaliers scored 185 points combined in those two games, so...perhaps not.

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