Year-End Grades for Every Key Utah Jazz Player

Andy BaileyFeatured ColumnistDecember 24, 2013

Year-End Grades for Every Key Utah Jazz Player

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    You wouldn't think the players on an 8-23 team would get the kind of report card they'd want to take home to their parents, but based on previous expectations, some deserve a high mark or two.

    Gordon Hayward looks like he can be a real point forward. Trey Burke has shown flashes of great playmaking ability. Derrick Favors has the potential to be a nightly double-double threat. And every once in a while, Alec Burks is as explosive as the doctor-patient relationship of Leo Marvin and Bob Wiley.

    The problem right now is that none of the aforementioned positives are happening consistently. Hopefully, time and experience change that.

    Before that happens though, these players deserve to be graded on a curve.

    This was always supposed to be a rebuilding season (that's why Utah let all the vets go this summer). So plenty of losses were expected (and in certain circles, welcome; ESPN's Chad Ford currently lists the Jazz at No. 3 in his "Tank Rank").

    With those lowered expectations and the the consideration of individual roles in mind, Utah's players will receive their final grades for 2013.

    Reserves will come first, followed by the starters.

     

    All stats courtesy of Sports-Reference or NBA.com unless otherwise noted, and are current as of Dec. 26, 2013.

Benchwarmers

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    Andris Biedrins, Center

    Andris Biedrins has only appeared in six games this season. He's averaged 2.8 rebounds and 0.5 points in those games.

    Considering that this is the last season on his current contract, it's starting to look like Biedrins may be done with the NBA after 2013-14.

    In his last three NBA seasons, he's put up 3.3 rebounds and one point while shooting 21.4 percent from the free-throw line. Hard to imagine anyone picking him up this summer.

    Still, flunking the guy probably isn't fair since he hasn't had a ton of time to prove himself and no one expected much from him anyway.

    Grade: D 

     

    Ian Clark, Shooting Guard

    Signed out of the summer league as a potential three-point specialist, rookie Ian Clark has failed to impress in his eight NBA appearances. 

    He's shooting just 27.3 percent from downtown. In three D-League games with the Bakersfield Jam, he was at 33.3. Still, not terribly impressive against lesser competition.

    Grade: D

     

    John Lucas, III, Point Guard

    There really isn't much more that can be said of John Lucas, III and his inefficiency.

    It shouldn't be surprising considering his history (he'd never hit 40 percent from the field for a season prior to this one), but somehow it is.

    This was the "big" free-agent signing this summer. Really, the only one. So far, he's shooting just 33.6 percent from the field and 34.4 percent from three-point range and he does very little as a playmaker (1.5 assists a game).

    Grade: F 

     

    Mike Harris, Small Forward

    Mike Harris has averaged just 11.3 minutes in his 20 appearances for the Jazz, but he's making the most of his very limited role.

    When he's out there, he plays hard on both ends of the floor, and with a field-goal percentage of 47.5, he's been pretty efficient as a shooter. The only players on the team with a better percentage are Jeremy Evans and Derrick Favors

    Grade: B

     

    Brandon Rush, Shooting Guard/Small Forward

    When the Jazz took on the expiring contracts of Biedrins, Richard Jefferson and Brandon Rush from the Golden State Warriors, the thought was that Rush might be the one guy who could make an impact in Utah.

    That hasn't been the case so far, but it's not really Rush's fault. 

    He spent the first few weeks of the season recovering from a knee injury, and since he's been back he hasn't played much.

    He's averaged 12.6 minutes in 12 appearances and is scoring just 1.6 points a game. The silver lining is that there's still plenty of time for Rush to carve out a role as a three-point specialist. He's shooting 44.4 percent from downtown.

    Grade: D

Diante Garrett, Point Guard

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    The guy who was signed midseason and quickly replaced John Lucas as the backup point guard has been solid within his role. Actually, that's part of why he's been solid. He plays within his role.

    Unlike Lucas, Garrett doesn't try to do more than he's asked or more than he's capable of. He simply manages the game, runs the offense, makes the easy pass, etc. when he's in.

    Unfortunately, his shooting numbers have been descending steadily over the last few weeks and now coach Tyrone Corbin is working Lucas back into the rotation.

    He's averaging 3.1 points and 2.4 assists while shooting 37.5 percent from the field and 36.8 from three-point range.

    Hopefully he'll be allowed some time to get it going again.

     

    Grade: C

Rudy Gobert, Center

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    Rudy Gobert is one of the best rebounders in the NBA. No, really, he is. 

    Among players who've played in at least five games and average at least five minutes a game, Gobert leads the entire league in rebounding percentage.

    That means he's higher than Kevin Love, Dwight Howard and Andre Drummond.

    Granted, it's a pretty small sample size (17 appearances and 10.7 minutes a game), but it's still impressive.

    For a little more evidence, you can look at his numbers in the D-League. Against the lower level of competition, he averaged 14 points, 13 rebounds and 4.3 blocks.

    His success isn't just a product of his insane length (insert obligatory 7'9" wingspan reference here). When you watch Rudy play, you can't help but smile over how hard he plays. The long arms help, but a lot of his rebounds are collected just because he wants them so bad.

    It's unfortunate that he can't really do anything else at this stage of his development. Offensively, he should be allowed to finish lobs or score on putbacks (not catch it in the high post for crying out loud!).

    But based on his rebounding ability and defensive potential alone, Gobert has already proved to be much more than many expected him to be as a rookie. 

     

    Grade: B

Jeremy Evans, Power Forward

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    Russ Isabella-USA TODAY Sports

    Jeremy Evans has cooled off quite a bit over the last few weeks, but he's still one of the most efficient scorers Utah has.

    He's second on the team in field-goal percentage at 50.4 and he's averaging a solid 13.2 points and 10.1 rebounds per 36 minutes.

    He's pretty much filling the "energy guy" role that DeMarre Carroll played last season, and he's doing a good job of it. Among the players who play regular minutes, he's fourth in plus/minus rating per game.

     

    Grade: B

Enes Kanter, Center/Power Forward

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    It's been very sad to witness the slow decline of Enes Kanter over the course of this season.

    In his 18 starts, he averaged 14.1 points and seven rebounds a game while shooting 49.1 percent from the field.

    As soon as Corbin shook things up and replaced Kanter with Marvin Williams in the starting lineup, things started going downhill. In that role, the third-year big man is averaging 6.3 points and 4.2 rebounds while shooting 38.8 percent.

    To Kanter's credit, he's approaching his new role the right way. According to the Salt Lake Tribune's Aaron Falk, Kanter said, "Whatever Coach gives me, come from the bench or the starting five, it doesn’t matter. In the end you still play for the Jazz."

    But even though he's staying optimistic with the media, he looks significantly less confident on the floor now than he was at the start of the year.

    It's a shame, because he's the most skilled low-post player Utah has. He needs to recapture the fire he once had. Unfortunately, I don't think Corbin is the coach who can help him do that.

     

    Grade: C

Alec Burks, Shooting Guard

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    Alec Burks is trending up as quickly as Kanter is trending down.

    In November, Burks averaged 10.1 points while shooting 37.3 percent from the field and 26.9 percent from three-point range. For December, those same numbers are 14.8, 49.7 and 44. 

    And he's starting to develop some nice chemistry with starting point guard Trey Burke. According to SLC Dunk's Mychal Lowman, "Jazz are 3-2 when Alec Burks and Trey Burke average 30 minutes or more."

    A lot of that chemistry comes from Burks' ability to get to the rim at will. It causes defenses to collapse and opens up the three-point line for Burke as well as Gordon Hayward and Marvin Williams.

    In that way, he makes the offense better.

    The Jazz are 4-5 when Burks plays at least 30 minutes, and in those nine contests he averaged 17.1 points four rebounds and 3.9 assists a game.

     

    Grade: B+

Trey Burke, Point Guard

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    Trey Burke has his faults, but the difference with him in the lineup has been clear and positive.

    Utah's overall record is 8-23 (.258), but it's 7-10 (.412) with Burke as the starting point guard. In the games in which he didn't start, the team averaged a league-worst 88.5 points per game. In the 17 starts: 95.3.

    No, they're still not great and won't be miraculously charging to the playoffs this season, but they're obviously better.

    Individually, Burke is really struggling with his shot (39.1 from the field and 35.7 from three-point range), but he's averaging 4.9 assists and just 1.4 turnovers a game. 

    His playmaking and ball control are having a bigger impact on the team than his poor shooting.

    Locked on Sports' David Locke quantified the difference, "Trey Burke impact - EFG% with Trey on floor/off floor - Favors 59/46 Burks 60/47 Jefferson 57/49 #ROY"

    If he figures out shot selection and starts knocking down open looks more consistently, he could end up taking Rookie of the Year. 

     

    Grade: B

     

Gordon Hayward, Shooting Guard/Small Forward

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    Gordon Hayward is the most complete player on this team, but he's not in the role that best suits him.

    Last season, while playing off Al Jefferson and Paul Millsap, Hayward averaged 10.7 shot attempts and hit 43.5 percent from the field and 41.5 percent from three-point range. With great scorers on the floor to command some of the attention of the defense, Hayward got better looks.

    Now that he's the No. 1 option, teams throw their best at him. He's putting up 14.5 attempts a game and he's shooting 39.7 percent from the field and 27.4 percent from three-point range.

    He needs to play with a dominant scorer who would allow him to focus more on his unique strengths as a playmaker and rebounder. Someone like say, oh, I don't know, Jabari Parker?

    If he was opposite Parker on the wing, he could spend more time in the point forward role and less time in the primary scoring role. It's something he's more than capable of, as he's averaging 5.5 rebounds and 4.7 assists a game.

     

    Grade: B-

Richard Jefferson, Small Forward

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    When the Jazz acquired Richard Jefferson this past summer, there probably weren't a lot of people betting on him starting each of Utah's first 31 games. After all, he is on the wrong side of 30 and last season he averaged just 3.1 points in 10.1 minutes a game.

    But here we are, and Jefferson is indeed Utah's starting 3 and averaging 26.5 minutes (tied with Kanter and just behind Burks' 27.1).

    What he offers is mostly intangible: veteran leadership, experience, steady hand, etc.

    But in December, he's made himself viable statistically as well. He's shooting 58.1 percent from three-point range this month and 50.6 percent overall.

    Yes, Richard Jefferson may be a bona fide three-point specialist going forward. Not only will that help Utah now, but it could help a title contender in the future.

    He's on an expiring contract and might be using this season as an audition for future gigs. According to the Salt Lake Tribune's Aaron Falk, Jefferson recently told Sirius XM's Off the Dribble, "If I get an opportunity to play for a championship team, I’m going to go hunting for that."

     

    Grade: C+

Marvin Williams, Power Forward/Small Forward

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    Things started pretty well for Marvin Williams when he first returned from a heel injury, but he's cooled off significantly.

    In the month of November, he shot 47.5 percent from the field and averaged 10.4 points. In December, as his minutes slightly increased, his shooting percentage dropped to 38.4 and his scoring average was 7.9.

    The decision to move him from the 3 to a stretch 4 was a good one by Corbin. But the decision to leave him in the starting lineup and play him at the expense of Kanter doesn't make much sense.

    This is a rebuilding year and the young guys should be given every opportunity to develop and gain experience on the floor.

     

    Grade: C

Derrick Favors, Power Forward/Center

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    The Utah Jazz are 5-8 in December and Derrick Favors is one of the biggest reasons why.

    This month, he's averaging 14 points, 8.2 rebounds and 1.5 blocks in 31.1 minutes a game. He's shooting 55.5 percent from the field and 81.5 percent from the free-throw line.

    No one on this team has been more consistent and he's showing that there's a good chance he'll live up to the big contract extension he signed this summer.

    Players with his combination of size (6'10", 268 pounds) and athleticism are still extremely rare, and if his skills catch up with his physical gifts, he'll be one of the league's best bigs for years.

     

    Grade: A

     

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