Initial Report Card Grades for Every Key Utah Jazz Player

Andy BaileyFeatured ColumnistNovember 21, 2013

Initial Report Card Grades for Every Key Utah Jazz Player

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    Even the firmest believers in the rebuilding strategy couldn't have expected the Utah Jazz—by far and away the worst team in the league—to be this bad.

    After losing to the New Orleans Pelicans with a final score of 105-98 on Wednesday night, Utah's record now stands at a staggering 1-12.

    Not only do the Jazz have the worst record in the NBA at -11.2, the team also boasts the worst point differential.

    So you'd expect grades to be pretty harsh for such a team, and in most cases they will be, but there have been a few bright spots in an otherwise gloomy season.

    Those good moments may not be enough to completely overcome the stats, observations and expectations upon which these grades are based, but they should offer hope to Jazz fans patient enough to suffer through this season.

    This report card isn't sorted by grade or name, but instead, by the individual player's importance to or prominence on the team.

     

    All stats courtesy of Basketball-Reference or NBA.com unless otherwise noted, and they are current as of Nov. 20, 2013.

Michael Harris, SF

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    At the start of October, Michael Harris was a training camp invitee for the Jazz. Now he's a rotation player enjoying his most consistent stint in the league.

    Before the 2013-14 campaign, the most minutes Harris had ever logged in a season was 159 in 2007-08. He's already at 144 for the Jazz and we're not even through November.

    His stable situation is more a product of the lack of talent on Utah's roster than it is a result of Harris's production. He's averaging 4.2 points in 12.9 minutes while shooting 37.8 percent from the field.

    He does deserve some credit for being the token "energy guy," though, even if he hasn't been as effective in the role as DeMarre Carroll was last season.

     

    Grade: C

Rudy Gobert, C

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    It was pretty much assumed that Rudy Gobert would be a long-term project when the Jazz selected him with the No. 27 pick in the 2013 draft.

    In many ways, that assumption has proved warranted. Gobert struggles to catch the ball, seems to get called for a moving screen at least once a game and is shooting 35.3 percent from the field.

    As a rebounder and rim protector, though, Gobert is already one of the best in the league. This is no joke. 

    Among players who average at least 10 minutes a game, Gobert leads the entire NBA with a rebounding percentage of 22.8, and he's averaging 2.4 blocks per 36 minutes.

    It's not just his 7'9" wingspan that makes Gobert in those two categories. When you watch him play, you see a level of energy and effort that no other Jazz player rivals.

    Unfortunately, that often leads to some bad, out-of-control plays, but Gobert deserves decent marks for being so far ahead of the projected learning curve.

     

    Grade: B

John Lucas III, PG

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    John Lucas III just had his best game of the season Wednesday night against the Pelicans, scoring 14 points while hitting 5-of-9 from the field and 4-of-5 from three-point range.

    Even with those numbers included, he's shooting just 36.8 percent from the field and 31 percent from three-point range. He's averaging 6.2 points and 1.8 assists. 

    For the majority of this season, he's been Utah's starting point guard.

    It's hard to believe Utah didn't see this coming when it brought Lucas in as the "veteran mentor" for Trey Burke. He's never finished a season shooting more than 40 percent from the field.

     

    Grade: D

Marvin Williams, PF/SF

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    After sitting out the first couple weeks of the season, Marvin Williams has now appeared in seven games for the Jazz.

    He's at least been serviceable in his role as a stretch 4 off the bench, and the Jazz has sunk so far that "serviceable" is actually a pretty hearty compliment for this bunch.

    Williams is averaging 7.6 points and 4.6 rebounds while shooting 45.5 percent from three-point range.

     

    Grade: C+

Richard Jefferson, SF

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    After averaging 10.1 minutes and starting one game for the Golden State Warriors last season, Richard Jefferson is now averaging 29.5 minutes, and he's started every game for the Jazz in 2013-14.

    That's the level of talent on the team right now. A player who was widely considered to be over the hill in Golden State is depended on to be a major contributor in Utah.

    Like many other rotation players, Jefferson is shooting less than 40 percent from the field. He's at a paltry 37.1 percent. His 10.5 points a game is fifth on the team.

     

    Grade: C- 

Trey Burke, PG

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    Rookie Trey Burke made his long-awaited NBA debut Wednesday night. He missed the team's first 12 games because of a broken finger on his shooting hand.

    Well, maybe that broken finger was a necessary adjustment. Against the Pelicans, Burke was 5-of-8 from the field for 11 points in 12 minutes.

    That's a significant improvement over the 24.1 percent he shot in the summer league and the 30 percent he shot in the preseason.

    Jazz fans are rightfully excited for Burke to be back from this injury, but one game isn't a big enough sample size to fairly grade him.

     

    Grade: Incomplete

Alec Burks, SG/PG

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    Throughout the first seven games of the season, Alec Burks averaged 14.6 points a game. Throughout the last six, he's at 7.3.

    With one of the uglier shot charts in the league, Burks' shooting woes are becoming a major concern. He's shooting 36.7 percent from the field and isn't really good at any range.

    He's below average at the rim, in the mid-range and from beyond the three-point line.

    In his first season as a major rotation player, Burks could very easily earn the designation of a shooting guard who can't shoot, which is not something that will help his NBA staying power.

    To Burks' credit, he has spent a lot of time playing out of position at point guard.

     

    Grade: D+

Enes Kanter, C/PF

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    Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports

    You could make an argument that Enes Kanter has been Utah's best player so far this season.

    He's the only guy shooting more than 50 percent from the field (not including Burke or Jeremy Evans, who have each only appeared in one game). He's second on the team in scoring at 15 a game, and he's second in rebounding at 7.5.

    Offensively, Kanter's skill level far outweighs Derrick Favors' and it's looking more and more like he has the edge over Gordon Hayward as well.

    He has great footwork and shooting touch both around the rim and in the mid-range, and he even has some fundamental post moves—a lost art in modern basketball.

    What's perhaps more impressive than his skill, though, is his tenacity as an offensive rebounder. Kanter goes after every miss from his teammates (which is a lot) and does a great job of getting the ball back to the rim.

    He's fourth in the NBA in second-chance points at 4.5 a game.

    The knock on Kanter early this season is that he doesn't seem to apply that same intensity to his work on the defensive boards. If he gets that going, Kanter should be able to comfortably average a double-double.

     

    Grade: B+

Derrick Favors, PF/C

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    Derrick Favors was re-signed as a defensive anchor, so it shouldn't be terribly worrisome that the big man is less than 50 percent from the field at 47.6.

    He's been solid at the things that earned him a four-year extension: rebounding and protecting the rim.

    He leads the team in boards at 10.4 a game and in blocks at 1.7. He's also in double-figures in scoring at 13.6 because of his willingness to run the floor and attack the rim, both in transition and in half-court sets.

    Right now, he's still pretty raw offensively, but if Favors' skill on that end ever catches up with what he does defensively, he has the potential to be a great player.

     

    Grade: B+

Gordon Hayward, SG/SF

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    On Wednesday night, Gordon Hayward had a dubiously historic game against the Pelicans. In NBA history, no player had ever gone 1-of-17 from the field, dished at least 11 assists and committed only one turnover before Hayward did.

    That wild game says a lot about Hayward this season.

    First, he's a pretty complete player. Hayward doesn't need to score to make an impact. He also had six rebounds in addition to the assists, and he was one of three Jazz players with a positive plus/minus rating for the game.

    Not only does Hayward not need to score, he doesn't need to try so hard to do so. This wasn't Hayward's first awful shooting performance this season. He went 5-of-23 against the Spurs on November 15, and he's shot less than 50 percent in eight of Utah's 13 games.

    It's starting to look like he's not a go-to scorer at this level, but he's still trying so hard to be.

    Hayward doesn't really have the ball-handling ability or explosiveness to create great looks for himself, so he often settles for long two-point shots.

    He wasn't a good mid-range shooter last season. According to HoopData.com, Hayward shot 30 percent in the three- to nine-foot range, 36.1 percent from the 10- 15-foot range and 37 percent from 16 feet to the three-point line.

    Those numbers aren't any better this season, as evidenced by this shot chart.

    Hayward has the potential to be a good scorer and shooter, just not as a No. 1 option. This season, he's leading the Jazz at 18.2 points a game, and in the role of lead scorer, his shooting percentages have suffered.

    He's at 39.7 percent from the field and 30 percent from three-point range.

    All this may be a bit harsh, because the current makeup of the roster pretty much forces Hayward's hand—no one else can effectively create his own offense either. 

    Like I said before, he does so much more than score. 

    Wednesday night marked the second time he's hit double-digits for assists, and he's averaging 5.9 rebounds a game.

    It might be time for Hayward to focus more on those things. This group may be best served with Kanter as the No. 1 option on offense, and Hayward's passing ability could help make him a force inside.

     

    Grade: C+

     

    For 140-character pearls of wisdom from Bleacher Report's Andy Bailey, follow him on Twitter: @AndrewDBailey.