In only his second NBA season, Rodney Hood became a staple of Utah’s starting lineup and proved himself to be a reliable threat from beyond the arc, with his ability to score off the dribble or in catch and shoot situations.
Hood started all 79 games he played during the 2015-16 season, with his highlights including a 30 point half against the Lakers and a career high 32 points against the Memphis Grizzlies. It was an impressive season for the 23-year-old, and things are only looking more promising for him this season.
What To Expect
For all his accomplishments and improvements last season, Rodney Hood finished the season shooting below 40% from 3, with only a slightly better FG %. He’s a far cry from the elite shooters of the league, but he showcased enough to show that he's ready to take the next step.
Perhaps the most exciting thing about Rodney Hood is his scoring off the dribble. He has a quick handle that allows him to create space and a quick release, that makes him a dangerous to leave open. This mixture causes hangover-level headaches for even the most agile defenders (see career-high 32 pts. with Courtney Lee and Tony Allen as defenders).
With Hood nearly doubling his points per game between his rookie and sophomore season, it’s expected that coach Snyder draws more plays for Hood this season and allow him more freedom on offense.
Another point of emphasis on Hood’s game has been pick and roll offense. Over the course of the season he showed improvement of his pick and roll game, specifically with Rudy Gobert. Hood slowed down his offense off screens and took the time to look for the extra pass or the player rolling to the basket, before attempting a shot.
This not only led to a spike in his scoring, but his assist numbers went up as well. If the trend continues, it’s sure to be a poisonous offense loaded with either quick triggers by Hood from 3 or lobs to the 7’1” Gobert. The addition of Boris Diaw, a great player in pick and roll situations, is only going improve the threat that Hood already presents.
Hood was a serviceable option in drive and kick situations due to his ability to get open on the wing and in corners. He shot 75% on assisted 3 pointers, most of which were allowed on plays initiated by Gordon Hayward driving and kicking out to a wide open shot. The Jazz, this offseason, added George Hill at point guard, which will allow for more of these drive and kick options for Hood.
Where To Improve
The biggest step that Rodney Hood can take next season is improving his defense. By all accounts, he is a less than serviceable defender; too slow to stay in front of his man, and making poor decisions when switching. At times, he forgets to stay home on his man and instead opts into a help defensive role when it’s simply not necessary. For Hood, at 6’8” and 206 lbs, he’s bigger than most 2 guards.
Rodney’s defense ranked towards the middle of pack last season, with a 106.4 rating and the Jazz allowing around 5 points more with him on the floor.
He needs to look to become a more physical, quick, and cerebral defender. As much as I love seeing a player slip by Hood and drive the paint only to get his shot rejected into Narnia by Rudy Gobert, if he can improve his defensive work, Rodney Hood can become a dangerous 3 and D option.
The progress of Rodney Hood is lined with a lot of “ifs”. “If he can shoot at the same or improved clip", “If Snyder decides to trust him more with the offense”, “If he can improve his defense”.
If Hood can execute on what I’ve outlined, then he can be a special and important piece of Utah’s core. But there are a lot of dichotomies and obstacles that can strain his development.
As mentioned, Hood is effective in getting open during drive and kick situations, which made for a good amount of his success beyond the 3 point line. But if you take a look at the trajectory of Hood’s career, it could just be an anomaly that he was forgotten by defenders along the wing and in the corner. Hood transferred from Mississippi State to Duke before his sophomore year and consequently had to sit out that season. During his sophomore year at Duke, Hood was an impressive player, but played in the shadow of Jabari Parker.
In the 2014 draft, Hood slipped to the Jazz at pick 23. He was never highly scouted for most of his college and NBA career, but maybe this season defenders will start to take him more seriously and won’t allow him as many open looks.
Another unknown is the addition of Joe Johnson. Hood’s biggest comparison through his career has been James Harden. Both are great spot-up shooters who can also create their own shot, take their defender off the dribble, or make the extra pass to an open teammate. But I see a lot of Joe Johnson’s skill-set in Hood. With Hood spending time with Johnson, a deadly 3 point option with over a decade of NBA experience, he’s bound to pick up a few things that are going to help grow his game. The unknown here is how Hood chooses to execute and utilize the things he learns from Johnson.
This can be a pivotal season for Rodney Hood. By all accounts, he’s exceeded expectations thus far but in his upcoming third season, the expectations are mounting even more. With the Jazz making additions that could land them a playoff spot, it’s crucial that Hood turns the corner and not only continues to contribute on offense, but also improves his play defensively. If he’s able to capitalize on that, Rodney Hood will be a big piece of the Jazz’s success.