SALT LAKE CITY — Without Gordon Hayward on the roster, thanks to his free agency move to Boston, the Jazz lack a natural lead scorer. The Jazz's second-leading scorer from last season (on a per-game basis, anyway), George Hill, is also gone.
The Jazz's plan is to counteract the loss of individual scorers with team efficiency, but at least one player will have to end up with the most points. So who will end up leading the Jazz in scoring in the 2017-18 season? To begin, here's how each player performed last season:
Each player also has a Value Added chart, thanks to NBAMath.com. Each bar compares how much value a player added, or took away, in each play type last season compared to a league-average player in each category. While it's not a great look at scoring, it does show you what type of plays each player excels at. Here are the candidates, going from least likely to most likely.
Why he will: He's scored over 20,000 points in his NBA career, and is the only player on the team who has shown the ability in isolation to go get a bucket when his team needs one. Last year's playoff run established him as maybe the Jazz's most important offensive player down the stretch of close games.
Why he won't: He's now 36 years old, and averaged just 9.3 points per game last year. Even during his last years in Brooklyn, he didn't lead them in scoring, despite being maybe their biggest name (and certainly their biggest contract). Quin Snyder will want to use him sparingly, to save him for the playoffs.
Why he will: He averaged 16.0 points per game after the All-Star break last year, and if he does that again, that might just be enough to lead the Jazz. He'll be under the Jazz's player development program, which has typically done a good job of improving a player's shooting numbers. His backups have less experience than any other position's backups, maybe he'll lead the team in minutes.
Why he won't: He's not a good shooter (especially not catch-and-shoot), and he's not a good finisher. The most he's ever averaged in his career is 11.1 points per game, and that was last season. He's best when he's passing to his teammates, giving them points, not keeping the ball himself.
Why he will: While he's never led the Jazz in scoring, he averaged 16.0 and 16.4 points per contest in the 2014-15 and 2015-16 seasons. On a contract year, he'll want to take all of the opportunities he can. Rubio might not help another player more, thanks to Favors' predisposition for making quick cuts around the rim and finishing. His percentage on his mid-range jumper was the highest of his career last season.
Why he won't: If he's not back to the kind of athlete he was before his injuries began in March of 2016, his ability to score and finish at the rim will be severely impacted, as it was in 2017. Rudy Gobert has usurped his role in the offense, taking the pick-and-roll possessions that Favors used to thrive on. Snyder has shown that he prefers smaller lineups at the end of games.
Why he will: The second-best rim runner and finisher in the league (behind DeAndre Jordan) now has an elite passing point guard to deliver him the ball. Gobert's upward-development curve has been sensational, and he might add a couple new tricks to his game next season. He will be the undisputed best player on the team and will demand touches. He should get more offensive rebound putback chances next year thanks to more wayward guard shooting. Gobert averaged 16.7 points per game last season after the All-Star break.
Why he won't: Gobert doesn't have a go-to offensive skill when he doesn't have an advantage created by his teammates. His opponents will scout him more than any player on the Jazz and will receive more attention this year. Worse shooting guards mean that opponents will sink inside more, giving Gobert less room to operate. Will he be fouled as often now that teams know he's a good enough free throw shooter?
Why he will: One of the only players who can consistently create his own shot, thanks to a developing isolation game, snake-like pick-and-roll moves, and an incredibly high release point on his jump shot. Hood is currently working with Johnnie Bryant, with the knowledge that he'll be heavily relied on in the offense. And hopefully, he'll be able to take a leap forward like Hayward did in 2016-17. He's willing and able to take a lot of 3-point shots. He should be healthy after a difficult season and should get a lot of minutes.
Why he won't: Hood only averaged 12.7 points per game last year in 27 minutes per game. He has yet to find a consistent ability to get to the rim or the free throw line in his career, averaging under two free throw attempts per game last season. He only gets one or two layup attempts per game and will face a lot of team's best perimeter defenders, who will defend him more physically than he's used to.