Midway through last season, Rodney Hood looked well on his way to establishing himself as an elite sixth man prior to reaching a very important summer, one in which he would hit free agency for the first time.
Over 39 contests with the Utah Jazz, 27 of them coming as a reserve, Hood was averaging a career-high in nightly points (16.8) and three-pointers (2.6), as well as in three-point accuracy (38.9 percent).
Then came the mid-year trade to the trade to the Cleveland Cavaliers, and it all fell apart.
Following the move, Hood’s numbers plummeted across the board. As a member of the Cavs, the big shooting guard averaged 10.8 points per outing while shooting just 35.2 percent from beyond the arc. And things only managed to get worse once the playoffs arrived. (More on that later.)
Now, set to his restricted free agency after the up-and-down year he had, it’s nearly impossible to get a read on Hood’s market.
Though he did prove he could put up solid numbers early in the season, his complete drop-off when placed into a more pressure-packed situation with Cleveland will certainly concern potential suitors.
Nevertheless, Hood is still just 25 and has flashed impressive potential as a two-way wing at different points in his career. Interest in the Mississippi native will be there, just likely not for the high-dollar amount that he assuredly was hoping for heading into the last year of his rookie contract.
Below, we break down four potential landing spots for the former Duke Blue Devil.
A team with playoff aspirations in need of more size on the wing and another player who can create their own shot, the Miami Heat could be an interesting as a Hood suitor.
All they’d be able to offer is the standard mid-level exception, but considering how Hood’s season ended, it may be enough to lure the Duke product to South Florida.
Once Dion Waiters went down last season, the Heat’s remaining roster struggled with shot-making both late in shot-clock situations and late in games overall. Lacking a player who could break down opposing defenses one-on-one, Miami’s offense would sputter on most nights, and was the primary reason why the team finished the regular season ranked 20th in offensive rating at 104.5 points per 100 possessions. In the postseason, which only lasted five games for the Heat before being eliminated by the Philadelphia 76ers, Miami’s points-scored-per-100-possession mark fell to a paltry 101.6.
Though Waiters is set to return next season, thus lessening the need for an expert in isolation basketball, Hood could still be another option in case the mercurial shooting guard is forced to miss more time with injury. Considering Waiters has missed 88 of a possible 162 games over the past two seasons, it may be something the Heat need to plan for at this point.
What’s more, outside of Justise Winslow, Miami has a lack of true wings on the roster. James Johnson is better suited to play small-ball power forward. Josh Richardson, the team’s current starter at the 3, is more of a natural 2-guard.
Landing another wing, especially a youngish one like Hood who was having a great year before a move to Cleveland, could be a worthwhile gamble for Miami.
Of course, if Cleveland is set on bringing back Hood no matter what, there’s nothing the Heat will be able to do about it considering the Cavs’ ownership over his restricted free-agent rights (especially likely if a certain superstar small forward ends up on another team this offseason).
But if for whatever reason, Cleveland decides they want to move on from the 6-foot-8 wing, Miami going after him on a two-year, $17.2 million deal could be possible.
Another playoff team that could use more scoring on the wing, the Indiana Pacers could also make sense as a landing spot for Hood.
After the jump Victor Oladipo made this past year, Indiana’s highest priority this offseason should be finding the explosive 2-guard some help on the wing. At this point in his career, Lance Stephenson is mostly a defensive specialist whose efficiency-related shortcomings on the offensive end hamper his overall effectiveness, while Bojan Bogdanovic is little more than a spot-up three-point specialist, albeit a deadly one. And Glenn Robinson III, despite athleticism that’s off the charts and an outside stroke that’s helped him sink 38.1 percent of his triples for his career, hasn’t earned a consistent spot in Nate McMillan’s rotation as of yet.
Thus, the Pacers taking a flyer on a talent like Hood could prove worthwhile.
He’s got great size for a 2-guard at 6-foot-8, and is coming off a career season from beyond the arc – having nailed 38.1 percent of his triples in 2017-18.
Perhaps playing in a smaller market with less burdensome expectations on every single outing would do Hood some good. After all, the Duke product did look like he was on his way to a career season prior to getting traded. Maybe that form can resurface in a situation with not as much pressure.
As of now, Indiana is projected to have roughly $11 million in cap room. If they decline their option on Stephenson, that number grows to about $16 million. It’s doubtful the Pacers would go through hoops just to open up space for Hood, but he wouldn’t be a bad secondary target for the team.
Working with the assumption that Cleveland lets Hood walk this offseason, something along the lines of a two-year, $14 million deal with a team option on Year 2 could be enough for Indiana to land the still-promising scorer.
Heading into the summer of 2018, the Chicago Bulls have the makings of a solid young core. With Kris Dunn and Zach LaVine manning the ball-handler spots, and Lauri Markkanen, Bobby Portis and newly drafted center Wendell Carter Jr as the primary bigs, the only thing Chicago are presently missing is a wing to develop with the rest of the group.
Hood could be an interesting option for the Bulls.
At 25 (almost 26) years old, Hood’s young enough to still not be a totally finished product, and thanks to his experience on not just one, but two elite teams last season, he could become the “veteran” leader for Chicago’s group of young guys.
The fact that the Bulls are apparently not totally sold on LaVine yet…
…could also open up the door for Hood.
Chicago could offer Hood a prove-it type deal – a short-term contract prior to see how he performs prior to committing for the long haul.
Since the Bulls – unlike most teams – are set to have some cap space to use, they could offer something along the lines of a two-year, $24 million contract if they believe Hood would be a good addition to their young core. Even at that price, and after how poorly his stint with the team went, Cleveland would be far from a lock to match.
Seemingly overnight, Hood went from exciting new member of a team with championship aspirations to an end-of-bench option only given a chance when the team’s season all but over.
After the Cavaliers’ opening round seven-game bout against the Pacers, Hood played sparingly in the rest of the 2018 postseason. His final numbers for the playoffs included him having almost as many DNP-CDs (Did Not Play-Coach’s Decision) at five as points per game (5.4). What’s more, he made just four of his 24 three-point attempts (16.7 percent) in the postseason.
Hood also caused a bit of controversy when, in Game 4 against the Toronto Raptors with the outcome already decided, he reportedly refused to check into the contest during garbage time.
Due to all of the aforementioned factors, it would seem to be a lock that Cleveland would want to move on from the fourth-year pro. But apparently, according to Hood at least, that’s not the case (via Vice Sports):
“Hood: Obviously their number one priority is LeBron and seeing what he’s gonna do. I think they do want me in their future. They’ve told me that. But obviously the money has to be worked out and so I really don’t know exactly what has to happen. But for me it’s just about doing what’s best for me and my family. I think Cleveland is going to do what’s best for that organization, and LeBron is going to do what’s best for him, and everybody can respect that.”
Regardless of what the team told him, at the moment it’s hard to envision the Cavs tying themselves down to Hood for the long haul. The best he can hope for is they give him another year to sort things out and prove he can be a worthwhile building block.
In fact, it wouldn’t be shocking in the slightest to see Hood draw a lack of interest this offseason and be forced to accept his qualifying offer for 2018-19, worth “just” $3.5 million, which would then, in turn, make him an unrestricted free agent in 2019. The money wouldn’t be great, but at least that route would give him the chance to prove he hasn’t completely lost his early 2017-18 form while playing for an elite team (if LeBron stays), as well as the ability to test the market again in a year, when more teams are projected to have money to spend.
You can follow Frank Urbina on Twitter @FrankUrbina_.
HoopsHype’s Alberto de Roa contributed to this article.