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Decision should be made now on Rodney Hood's Jazz future

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SALT LAKE CITY — Rodney Hood was the last player out of the Utah Jazz's locker room on Monday night. It had been a rough game for Hood. After starting the game 1-7 from the floor (the one made shot was an accidentally-banked-in three), he heard sparse, but very real boos from Jazz fans on his home floor.

Afterward, when asked about the fan reaction, and the vitriol sent his way in person and online, Hood sounded more indefatigable than he ever has publicly.

"I feed off of it," Hood said. "S---, it is what it is. I just gotta be who I am. It is what it is. I've been through tough times before. I've had people give up on me before. This s--- is nothing new, and I keep moving forward.

"This is my fourth year. This is the best season I've had since I've been here. So it is what it is. If people boo or they say s--- about me, I just keep going. That's all I can do. I keep my head up. I'm gonna keep shooting the ball. It is what it is. I just gotta keep fighting and not lose confidence because everybody else does."

And teammate Donovan Mitchell backed him up on Twitter:

> Tough loss tonight but we will bounce back.... Can’t believe people were booing Rodney tonight that is insane to boo a man who works his butt off everyday to become a better player and for people to boo him is INSANE He gives his all for us and we do the same for him! GOOD NIGHT! > > — Donovan Mitchell (@spidadmitchell) [January 16, 2018](^tfw)

After getting booed on Monday night, Hood made five of his next seven shots, albeit in a game the Jazz were never close in. But then he exploded on Wednesday, scoring 25 points on 16 shots against the woeful Sacramento Kings. Critics answered, at least temporarily.

But as Jazz fans are trying to decide what to make of Hood, the Jazz's front office is too. There are three doors for the future of the Hood/Jazz partnership:

  • The Jazz trade Hood before the Feb. 8 trade deadline, getting something in return.
  • The Jazz keep Hood at the deadline and elect to keep him in the summer, either by offering a contract that he'll accept or matching one given by another team.
  • The Jazz keep Hood at the deadline but lose him to another team in free agency.
Door No. 3 hurts badly. The Jazz know from Gordon Hayward's departure just how damaging losing a free agent for nothing is. While Hood isn't Hayward, he's clearly a valuable asset. And because Hood's current contract is for only $2.4 million, there's not even a big opportunity to use the cap space Hood opens up. Door No. 3 would be definite asset mismanagement.

Door No. 2 could be damaging as well. The hope would be that the Jazz could escape by signing Hood to a reasonable long-term deal, somewhere in the $12 million to $15 million range per season. In an offseason where only five to 10 teams have money to spend that might be the most likely outcome.

But, as the saying goes, it only takes one team to mess it all up. Would it be that surprising to see Dallas consider Hood its top priority, giving him $18 million or even $20 million per season to try to get him from Utah? Or would it be surprising to see Chicago deciding that Hood could solve their wing positional problems moving forward?

And in that case, the Jazz would be facing the choice between paying Hood 20 percent of the cap for the next four seasons, or the ugly aforementioned door number three.

Is Hood worth $18 million to $20 million per season? Maybe. He's ranked 26th right now among qualified players at scoring per 100 possessions; in other words, there's probably only one of those guys per team. Some teams (Atlanta, Chicago, Dallas, Detroit, Los Angeles Lakers, Miami, and Orlando) don't have a guy who scores as quickly as Hood does. Scoring is the NBA's most consistently-rewarded skill, and Hood does it in bunches.

And while Hood's offense revolves around his jump shot, he can get that shot off in a lot of different situations. He's an 81st percentile pick-and-roll scorer, 77th percentile isolation scorer, and a 72nd percentile spot-up catch-and-shoot scorer. Those are maybe the three most commonly used ways to score in today's NBA and Hood is good at them all.

But there is a sense of empty calories about Hood's scoring. Because he doesn't get to the rim very frequently for a lead scorer, he doesn't get some easy points like others can. Relying on the jumper means that mathematical variance makes it very easy for Hood's scoring totals to be inconsistent.

The bigger issue is that Hood isn't a great passer (he makes the right play pretty frequently, but rarely creates open shots for others) or rebounder (below-average, but not wildly deficient). And on defense, Hood generally looks average-ish, but the metrics aren't nice: he's below-average at forcing blocks and steals for a wing, and his defensive RPM is 100th out of 105 NBA shooting guards.

He's the kind of player that probably is worth a large contract, given what other similar wings have gotten in past years, but may not be the player that actually helps you take steps forward as a winning team.

So that's why door No. 1, trading Hood before the deadline, is a possible option for the Jazz. With a trade, Hood's market opens from those five-to-10 teams with potential cap space this summer to 29 other teams who could use his Bird rights to sign him to whatever deal they wanted.

Who might give something of value up? The entire league is hungry for wing players. Oklahoma City wants a wing scorer to play with their stars, as mostly ineffective rookie Terrence Ferguson has been their lead wing option off the bench, playing 20-30 minutes a night in recent games. Both Jae Crowder and J.R. Smith have been disappointing for Cleveland, Hood could take some of their minutes. And maybe those aforementioned teams that don't have a lead scorer would want one, and Hood's associated Bird rights.

It's not exactly the same, but the situation reminds me of Enes Kanter's three seasons ago. Then, Kanter was also an upcoming restricted free agent, just as Hood is now. The Jazz had an up-and-coming star at Kanter's position in Rudy Gobert, the Jazz have one in Hood's position in Mitchell. And in the end, rather than paying Kanter, they decided to give him to Oklahoma City in exchange for longer-term assets: a late first-round pick, a second-round pick, and the rights to Tibor Pleiss.

Hood's a better fit for the Jazz's roster now than Kanter was then, and it's easier to imagine Hood playing alongside Mitchell long term, whereas Gobert and Kanter clearly weren't going to work. But still, given that the Jazz chose not to extend Hood in this past offseason, it wouldn't be surprising to see them make a similar move now.

The biggest decisions about Rodney Hood's future with the Utah Jazz aren't going to be made in July; they're going to be made in the next three weeks. It's still most likely that he stays with the Utah Jazz for now and the long term. But there's a very real possibility that the Jazz opt for preserving flexibility in the summers of 2019, 2020 and 2021 by getting something for him now.


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