Rodney Hood is one of the most talented players still on the table this off-season. Undoubtedly, he has the potential to bring a lot to whoever signs him for the next season. The question for him and for everyone keeping an eye on him is, where will that be?
The Uncertain Future of Rodney Hood
A Talented Player
Hood is clearly a skilled basketball player. There’s no doubt that he has a place in the NBA, perhaps even as a starter. He showed this in his time with the Utah Jazz, with whom he spent the first three and a half years of his career. Utah drafted Hood 23rd overall in 2014, and Hood progressed throughout his time there. By the mid-season mark last year, he was putting up 17 points, three rebounds, two assists, and a steal in 28 minutes of action every night, starting 12 of the 39 games he played in for the Jazz. Hood was an offensive spark for the team in this stretch, shooting a career-best 43 percent from the field. Hood also shot a respectable 39 percent from deep, as well as 88 percent from the free throw line.
Faltered in the Presence of the King
After star point guard Kyrie Irving left Cleveland, the Cavaliers were rushing trying to build another championship-caliber team around LeBron James. As off-season additions Isaiah Thomas, Jae Crowder, and even Dwyane Wade, among others, proved to be ineffective around the King, the Cavaliers’ front office decided to shake the roster up and bring a fresher set of legs to help James. One of those was Rodney Hood. On Feb. 8, he was part of a three-team trade involving the Cavs, the Sacramento Kings, and the Utah Jazz that brought him to the Land. The Cavs had obviously seen Hood’s talent and what he could bring on the floor. Cleveland was hopeful that what he did for the Jazz would translate.
As we saw, this was obviously not the case. Hood’s overall play dropped, but most notably, the most important aspect of his game: his scoring. In 21 games (11 starts) in the latter part of the regular season, he would average slightly below 11 points per game in about two fewer minutes of playing time than with the Jazz.
During the post-season, things became worse. In 17 games, Hood averaged just five points in 15 minutes of action nightly. His shooting percentages were just terrible: 42 percent from the field and only 17 percent from deep. He was clearly not playing to the best of his abilities and looked frustrated at times. The climax of his tumultuous post-season came when he refused to play in garbage time in the Cavs’ Game 4 win as they swept the Toronto Raptors. Given his caliber and his potential, his frustration from the lack of playing time was definitely understandable. In the shadow of King James, however, this was simply a question of who was most effective on the floor, as well as who could contribute to Cleveland’s pursuit of another championship when the team needed it.
Potential Landing Spots for Rodney Hood
Of course. Who isn’t linked to Sactown at this point in free agency? They have cap space to spend. These remaining players are perhaps frustrated that they still have no contracts. Why not grab some of them?
In all seriousness, Rodney Hood would probably not be bad in Sacramento. As a wing player, Hood can definitely fill in some places in the Kings roster that is currently lacking. The Kings only have Iman Shumpert and Justin Jackson at the three, so Hood would compete for a starting role with them. His most precious talent, his shooting, is another attractive factor for the Kings to take him. Although his prowess had a vanishing act in the post-season, a new environment would help to bring this back. At 25 years old, he also brings the perfect balance of youth and maturity. Hood would help the young Kings roster to develop faster.
Rodney Hood, however, is a restricted free agent. The Cavaliers are sure to prioritize keeping him, now that James is in Los Angeles. Although the Kings may be willing to spend on Hood, the Cavs would probably match most offers.
From the bottom of the West to the top real quick.
The Houston Rockets have reportedly expressed interest in acquiring Rodney Hood in free agency. His role in the team would be somewhat similiar to that with the James-led Cavaliers: offensive spark. With talented scorers and playmakers James Harden and Chris Paul at the center of the team, serving as magnets for opposing defenses, Hood would again be brought in as a scorer. Hood could make plays off the dribble when the opposing team focuses on other players on defense. He would be expected once again to take and make shots when the stars are surrounded, especially from beyond the arc.
While a role on the Rockets roster may be plausible in theory, it may not be practical. The Rockets are cash-strapped right now. Their star center, Clint Capela, still hasn’t gotten a contract in restricted free agency. And Hood himself is a restricted free agent, making it more difficult to sign him. With that said, Hood going to the Rockets might be nothing more than speculation.
Staying Put in Cleveland
As mentioned before, Hood is a restricted free agent. The Cavs would undoubtedly match offer sheets for him, as they have expressed their desire to keep him as part of their long-term plans. But why would they match?
For exactly the same reasons as the Kings would care to consider submitting to him an offer sheet: Hood is young, developing, and has proven offensive talent. He would not fill the gap that James has left in Cleveland. He would not form the next Big Three with Kevin Love or Collin Sexton or anyone else. But Hood’s skill-set and his age make him a worthy long-term investment for the Cavaliers.
With less pressure on the team now as they are not seriously challenging for another title, players like Hood, Jordan Clarkson, and Larry Nance Jr. would have opportunities to develop and flourish in Cleveland. Hood, like the other two, would probably not have a guaranteed starting spot on the roster, but he’d have a role on the team. The Cavs would look to Hood to create offense, to make shots from distance, and to do the exact things he was brought there to do in the first place.
Hood is a perfect fit for the Cavs in the post-James era. Maybe the front office was indeed planning ahead for James’ departure. Maybe Hood helping the Cavs in the 2018 playoffs was not the primary intention of him being acquired in the first place. Perhaps this was the reason he was brought in after all, to be part of a new movement, a new era in Cleveland. Right now, the most appropriate decision for him seems to be to stay put in Cleveland.
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