In a move that should bolster spacing and provide much-needed three-point accuracy, the Utah Jazz selected Duke forward Rodney Hood with the No. 23 pick in the 2014 NBA draft.
Hood, 21, forewent his final two years of eligibility after a breakout sophomore season at Duke. He previously played for one season at Mississippi State before a transfer to Durham, North Carolina, making him a year older than most players in his class.
The Jazz already took Dante Exum with the fifth pick in the first round. Adding Hood to their crop of draft talent will give them yet another young piece to insert into a lineup with Trey Burke and an up-and-coming Jazz team.
A 6'8.5" swingman, Hood averaged 16.1 points and 3.9 rebounds in 2013-14. He largely took a backseat to the hype surrounding teammate Jabari Parker, who was taken second overall by the Milwaukee Bucks earlier Thursday.
Despite the intent focus on Parker, Hood was graded as a no-brainer first-round pick. ESPN's Chad Ford had him 25th on his final big board, while I ranked him quite a bit higher at No. 16. In a class with two elite shooters in Nik Stauskas and Doug McDermott, Hood was bound to have some fluctuation in his stock dependent on how teams graded their skill set.
Hood impressed at the combine, knocking down a high percentage of his shots both on the move and as a stationary three-point threat. His 69.3 percent accuracy overall was the fourth best of any participant. Hood was surprisingly impressive off the dribble, with a quick and consistent release that rarely changed based on circumstance.
“It felt pretty good, just getting repetitions,” Hood told reporters at the combine. “I had a few jitters, but once I got going, I was knocking down shots.”
Though not a great athlete, Hood's 36" vertical was more than adequate, as were most of his splits in agility drills. He finished better than the mean in the lane agility drill, though his shuttle run and sprint times were mediocre. No one expected Hood to be an elite athlete coming into the combine, so the overarching mood was positive.
The Jazz hopes his shooting ability is as instantly translatable as it seems. Hood was a very solid 40 percent jump shooter in college, including a 42 percent clip from beyond the arc last season. Look for Utah to spot him up plenty in the corner because opposing teams will be unable to cheat toward the paint.
Hood is also a surprisingly strong player on pick-and-rolls. He averaged 1.256 points per possession as a pick-and-roll ball-handler as a sophomore, ranking in the 99th percentile nationally, per Synergy Sports (subscription required). That number is easily the highest among players expected to be drafted Thursday night.
Defensively, Hood is a pretty glaring minus at this point. His foot speed makes it possible for ball-handlers to get around him into the paint, and he has a tendency for lackadaisical or downright lazy fundamentals. Duke's entire team had issues defensively—including Parker—so it's not all on Hood. But opposing ball-handlers torched him on pick-and-rolls all season, and he was rarely a plus on that end.
At this point in his development, Hood is mostly "just" a scorer. He doesn't rebound well, has a slight frame that allows bigger players to overpower him and is only OK as a passer.
The one skill we know Hood has (shooting) is the most translatable. Elite collegiate defenders like Evan Turner can become hapless at the next level. Guys who work in the post can often struggle against bigger, stronger defenders. While the length of an outstretched arm may change and the shot windows shorten, shooting is mostly shooting.
If a guy can knock them down from deep in college, history says he'll do it in the pros. Hood may not be a two-way superstar at the next level, but he's one of the most talented scorers in the class and a guy who should instantly get minutes off the bench. Get him to buy in on team-defense concepts and improve his vision as a passer, and Hood projects as a long-term starter.
At No. 24, that's the most the Jazz can ask for.
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