Next up in our series is veteran wing Rodney Hood, joining the Bucks on a minimum contract for the upcoming season, and hopefully providing... something?
Hood was drafted at 23rd out of Duke in 2014 by Utah, where he spent three and a half seasons. By year two, he was a starter with some promise, starting 79 games while averaging 14.5 PPG on .420/.359/.860 shooting. Beyond that, he provided little else: 3.4 RPG, 2.7 APG (which both still stand as his career highs!), and a +1.1 net rating. That’s indicative of the production he’s had throughout his career; he pretty plateaued after three seasons and was then replaced by Donovan Mitchell as the Jazz’s starting shooting guard.
After being traded to Cleveland and making a Finals appearance in 2018, Hood was shipped to Portland near the deadline in 2019 as they tore down from the second LeBron James era (fun fact: the Bucks will be the third team that Hood has played on with George Hill, after Utah and Cleveland). In each of those stops, he was a rotational player on playoff squads that really needed help on the wing, but he didn’t produce very much... until the 2019–20 season. After re-signing with the Blazers on a 2-year, $11.7m deal (with a second-year player option) before the 2019–20 season, Hood got off to a sizzling start shooting .493 from deep (on 3.4 per game) as Portland’s starting small forward. He appeared to have re-invented himself as an elite catch-and-shoot role player after years of inefficiency.
Sadly, it was not to be. On December 6th of 2019, Hood tore his left Achilles in the first quarter of a loss to the Lakers, ending his season after 21 games. Still, he opted out of his $6m salary for 2020–21 and managed to score a nice raise with a 2-year, $21m contract to stay in Portland, though the second year was non-guaranteed. While he’d recover in time for the start of the 2020–21 season, he was now behind promising young wings Gary Trent Jr. and Derrick Jones Jr. (maybe he should have been a junior) on Portland’s depth chart, while also competing for minutes with Carmelo Anthony. In 38 games working his way back from injury, he averaged just 4.7 points on a paltry .363/.298/.750 shooting line in 19.1 MPG. Portland traded him as salary filler along with Trent to the Raptors for notorious Bucks killer Norman Powell last March. He didn’t fare any better in
Toronto Tampa, racking up a lot of DNPs as the team floundered out of contention, then fracturing his left hand with 4 games left.
Toronto wisely waived Hood rather than guaranteeing his $10.9m salary for the upcoming season. Before he was even waived, it was honorably reported by a reporter who has never drawn Bucks fans’ ire that he was signing with Milwaukee on what was later reported to be a veteran’s minimum, one-year deal. Now he’s competing with the likes of Pat Connaughton, Grayson Allen, Semi Ojeleye, and possibly Jordan Nwora for minutes on the wing as he looks to re-establish his career.
A torn Achilles is about the worst injury a basketball player can have; While many recover, few are the same upon return; Kevin Durant being a notable exception to the rule. It’s easy to feel for Hood, who was putting together possibly his best season before the devastating blow, and just couldn’t find a rhythm at all once he made it back to the court. Setting aside the injury’s possible long-term effects, it’s easy to see why teams like Hood: he’s a willing shooter with length (6’8” with an identical wingspan), tall enough to get over smaller defenders. On the other end, while he may deter smaller wings from putting up shots, he lacks the bulk (listed at 208 lb.) to go at bigger forwards. Lower-body injuries raise concerns about on-ball defense too. He’s graded out as an average defender at best throughout his career, but most of that came before the injury.
Though injuries could afford him more chances, it’s tough to see Hood cracking the 9-man rotation Mike Budenholzer favored last season, even while Donte DiVincenzo remains out. He’s not entirely one-dimensional, but he’s close: the best NBA skill he’s developed is shooting, so he has to be making shots given his lack of production in other facets of the game, plus defensive skills that were never anything special even before the injury. That all reduces his chances at seeing meaningful minutes, but with another offseason removed from the Achilles tear, Hood may have an easier time getting back into form than he did last winter. The player he became in Portland—he led the league in catch-and-shoot 3P% among players averaging over 2 attempts per game—is one that doesn’t necessarily need athleticism to find open looks and receive kick-outs from cutters. If he’s feeling physically able enough to set and get over screens, the opportunities will be there in Bud’s offense. His height slides him nicely between Khris Middleton and the Bucks’ bigs, but he is not as good of an option at the 4 as Middleton given his mass, so he probably should only be used there in small lineups alongside Giannis.
While Hood’s playoff performances were disappointing on Portland and especially Cleveland, if he reassumes the role he found early in year two as a Blazer and succeeds, he’s someone any team would take off their bench during a playoff run. Whether or not he’s capable of doing that two years after a catastrophic injury is questionable, to say the least. Minutes will be hard to come by on the wing in Milwaukee this season but given the uncertainty there beyond Pat Connaughton, Hood has a chance to re-prove himself as an NBA role player, if others don’t outplay him. This is all to say that Rodney Hood is a possible playoff contributor for this team, but you really have to squint. Placing him 11th in these rankings—ahead of Thanasis and Nwora, whose skills on one side of the court are non-existent—feels spot-on.
Next up is the tenth spot as we move closer to the starters, and the guys who will make up an actual 7 or 8-man playoff rotation.
The 10th Most Important Player to Milwaukee’s Postseason Success is...
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