At 24 years old, Rodney Hood has merely gotten his feet wet in the NBA. But given how the league’s collective bargaining agreement is structured, the future of his career could be determined by his performance in the upcoming season.
Eligible for a contract extension, Hood’s long-term fit with the Utah Jazz will come into question in 2017-18, if it hasn’t already.
Three years ago, the NBA reached a $24 billion media rights agreement with ESPN and Turner Sports, which raised the salary cap roughly $36 million from the time the deal was signed to today. Right now, the salary cap is set at just over $99 million. In 2014-15, it was $63 million.
The contract between the NBA and its television partners has resulted in players getting massive raises. The market, ultimately, sets the players’ values, so the often-regurgitated point of “player X doesn’t deserve X amount of dollars” becomes moot. Even if a player didn’t necessarily “earn” the deal — which, again, is irrelevant in a capitalist economy — team owners will have to pay up.
The days of eight-figure contracts being exclusive to a team’s best player are over.
This summer, Washington re-signed Otto Porter to a four-year, $106 million contract and Los Angeles agreed to a one-year, $18 million deal with Kentavious Caldwell-Pope. While both Porter and Caldwell-Pope will play fairly large roles for their respective teams, neither player is a household name nor is he selling many jerseys. Hood could be in the same boat — and that’s not a bad thing, per se.
Despite never crossing the luxury tax threshold, the Jazz haven’t hesitated to pay their players in the past if they deem the player worthy of such an investment.
Once it became apparent that Rudy Gobert was indispensable, the Jazz re-signed the big man to a $102 million deal in 2016. And, according to previous reports, the Jazz were willing to pay Gordon Hayward up to $177 million if he chose to stay in Salt Lake City, which could in turn increase Hood’s chances of becoming the next player in Utah to get a substantial raise.
The loss of Hayward creates room for Hood to prove himself to Utah’s brass, further cementing himself as one of the team’s core pieces. Hayward led the team in shots per game with 15.8 and George Hill was second at 12.4. Someone has to fill the scoring void, and it likely won’t be any of the players the Jazz signed this offseason.
During a press conference in June at the University of Utah, Jazz general manager Dennis Lindsey acknowledged the team’s need to find a reliable offensive option and specifically noted Hood’s emergence in that capacity, according to KSL’s Andy Larsen.
Dennis Lindsey: "We believe Rodney Hood can be a primary scorer. It's time for us to pivot, it's time for us to move on."— Andy Larsen (@andyblarsen) July 6, 2017
With Ricky Rubio in the fold, Hood won’t have a shortage of possessions with the ball in his hands.
Rubio made 66.9 passes per game last season, which was second in the NBA and just 0.3 shy of first. In almost every passing statistic, including assists, Rubio found himself in the top five. When Rubio gets the ball, his teammates can expect one thing: he’s going to pass it. And Hood can be one of the main beneficiaries from his unselfishness.
Relying on an unproven player like Hood isn’t ideal for the Jazz, but it could be the most honest way for the team to determine his value.
If he makes the most out of the opportunity — the shots available due to player departures and the acquisition of Rubio — Hood will find himself carrying a heavy wallet next season. But if he doesn’t show much progress, the Jazz can avoid handing him a dangerously bad long-term contract. Whatever happens, Hood will only have himself to congratulate — or blame.