Among players with a decent chance to change teams by Thursday’s NBA trade deadline, the player with the most overlooked value might be Utah Jazz shooting guard Rodney Hood. The Jazz wing combines one of the NBA’s most sought-after skills — the ability to create his own shot — with the ability to create for his teammates while enjoying the best shooting season of his career. With rookie Donovan Mitchell stealing much of Hood’s thunder with his emergence, teams would be wise to aggressively explore the Jazz’s willingness to part with so valuable a player.
This was supposed to be Hood’s year. With Gordon Hayward departed as a free agent to the Boston Celtics, it was anticipated that the Jazz would look to Hood to fill much of the scoring shortfall. Instead, Mitchell burst onto the scene with an electrifying Rookie of the Year candidacy that took eyes away from Hood and may have cost observers an opportunity to judge Hood’s value in the kind of high-volume role that was anticipated.
At first glance, Hood appears to be having a career year regardless of Mitchell’s impact. Hood is enjoying career-highs in points and effective field goal percentage, including a career-best 39.7 percent on three-pointers. So what is there to complain about? At this point last season, the Jazz were outscoring opponents by 7.8 points per 100 possessions with Hood on court, the team’s third-best net rating. This year, in only 85 fewer minutes, Utah is being outscored by 3.6 per 100 with Hood on court, nearly three points worse than any other Jazz player with at least 700 minutes.
As always, context is king. Last season over the same stretch, Hood shared the floor with defensive stopper Rudy Gobert for 899 minutes. This season, due to shifting roles and injuries, Hood has played only 254 minutes with Gobert. This almost certainly accounts for the fact that the Jazz is allowing a team-worst 107.7 per 100 after limiting opponents to 103 during Hood’s minutes in the same segment of 2016-17.
With Hood’s role differing from what it might have been if Mitchell had developed more slowly, the Jazz guard now finds himself in a classic dilemma for elite basketball talent. A second top-flight player occupying the same position makes it difficult to measure his real value. This was the case for point guard Eric Bledsoe, who fell to 18th in the 2010 draft after playing out of position at shooting guard at Kentucky alongside first overall pick John Wall.
And that’s why rival executives should be blowing up Utah GM Dennis Lindsey’s phone right up until the deadline in an effort to pry Hood away. Only through an extraordinarily rare set of circumstances did Hood come to be a topic of the annual deadline rumor mill. Mitchell was himself underrated and fell to the Jazz at 13th despite the legend that grew out of his individual workouts. Utah likely drafted what it considered the best player available, never imagining that Mitchell would challenge the team’s presumptive leading scorer for minutes and role as a rookie.
Players like Hood are almost never available on the trade market. NBA teams are desperate for players that can create their own offense with the shot clock winding down. Add to that Hood’s ability to serve as a secondary ball handler and create scoring opportunities for his teammates. It seems almost absurd to think that Utah would consider offers for a player with such a rare combination of abilities, especially with a league-wide shortage of wings.
Perhaps the Jazz are simply performing due diligence with Hood, as all teams do with all players at this time of year. But if the team is truly open to moving Hood, 29 opposing teams should be pulling out all the stops to be the team that successfully trades for him. Victor Oladipo became an All-Star this season because he finally found the right role and opportunity in Indiana. Hood could be the next player who makes a similar leap after finding the right opportunity in the wake of a trade that could look very lopsided in retrospect.
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