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Rodney Hood is Winning With His Size

Feb 25, 2015; Salt Lake City, UT, USA; Utah Jazz guard Rodney Hood (5) reacts during the first half against the Los Angeles Lakers at EnergySolutions Arena. Mandatory Credit: Russ Isabella-USA TODAY Sports
Russ Isabella/USA TODAY Sports

Because Rodney Hood fits in so well with the rest of the Utah Jazz roster — quiet, attention-deflecting — it’s rarely discussed how successful he’s been in the first year-plus of his NBA career.

In retrospect, Hood is one of the biggest steals of the 2014 NBA Draft (alongside Clint Capela, Nikola Jokic and Jordan Clarkson). Selected 23rd overall, Hood is second in his draft class in Win Shares, just behind No. 10 pick Elfrid Payton and just ahead of No. 1 pick Andrew Wiggins. That’s awfully impressive. What’s even more impressive is when you consider that Win Shares is a cumulative statistic, and that Hood has accumulated all that value despite being just seventh in the class in total minutes played — or less than half the time that Wiggins has been on the floor.

It’s true, Hood has spent basically the whole season in a troubling shooting slump: he’s connecting on only 31.7 percent of three-point shots after having 36.5 percent accuracy in 2014-15, his rookie year, and 42 percent accuracy his previous season, at Duke. But where his three-point percentage has fallen, he’s also boosted his two-point percentage, from 45.6 percent last year to 49.7 percent this year. At just age 23, he still has a ton of time to improve his game, and he should continue to do so, since he’s learning how to effectively use his size to his advantage.

Since Hood doesn’t “play tall,” it can be easy to forget that he’s 6’8″ — or significantly taller than just about every shooting guard he lines up against. When thinking of the Utah Jazz, it’s usually Derrick Favors and Rudy Gobert who come to mind when thinking of players who can dissuade opponents from using smaller lineups. It might be continued two-way improvement from Hood, though, that would really make it difficult to go small against Utah.

Look at Hood’s decisiveness when he got this offensive rebound on a back-tap. Stephen Curry is more than half a foot shorter than Hood (wearing #5), who easily swooped over him for the score:

Hood’s size is useful when cross-matching against larger positions as well. In the following possession, from earlier in the same game, Hood was able to move past imposing shooting guard Klay Thompson (6’7″) and seven-foot Andrew Bogut on this drive:

Hood’s individual defensive numbers aren’t impressive so far in his career, but there are glimmers of an excellent defender in his play. In addition to his hustle on this fast break against the Phoenix Suns, he was able to intercept the ball in part, it seems, because the offense didn’t take into account how tall he is:

In Utah’s blowout win over Phoenix, the Suns would play Eric Bledsoe and Brandon Knight together, which could lead to stifling possessions like this one:

Although Favors got the credit for the block, Hood’s ability to shut down Knight is what set up the rejection.

While this last play has little to do with size, Hood’s ability and focus to anticipate the play from the weak side was admirable. It’s not often that a steal is just straight plucked out of the air with two hands:

As Hood learns more ways to leverage his phenomenal size against opponents, Utah’s starting lineup will become that much more difficult to go small against.

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