Last night, the fans came out in droves (by summer league standards) to see No. 5 overall pick Dante Exum and the Utah Jazz take on the Milwaukee Bucks and second overall selection Jabari Parker. Each of them showed flashes of star potential at times, but on the whole Parker and especially Exum had relatively quiet nights. On the other hand, the performance of Parker’s former Duke teammate Rodney Hood spoke volumes to everyone who saw it.
As was the case with a lot Blue Devils games this past season, people were tuning in to see Parker but couldn’t help but leave impressed with Hood. He finished his second game of NBA Summer League action with 29 points, five assists and two steals. After struggling from behind the arc Saturday against the Philadelphia 76ers to the tune of one make in 10 tries, Hood bounced back with seven three-pointers against the Bucks.
Perhaps less spectacular than his perpetual bombing of triples during the third quarter but something equally commendable was his defense throughout the game. During the draft process, Hood stated multiple times that it was his desire to become one of the league’s best defenders, and so far in the Vegas league, he has been engaged, energetic and is making plays on the other side of the ball.
Steals aside, you could see Hood in a strong defensive stance at nearly all times and doing his best to play into Utah’s concept of sound team defense. This is where he’ll be able to buy extra minutes in the Jazz’ wing rotation this upcoming season. Everyone knows he can score — effort on defense will be what propels him from rotational player to key contributor in the years to come.
In addition to having the right mindset on defense and creating his own scoring opportunities on offense, he showed an ability to play unselfishly with the ball and find his teammates. On two occasions, he found one of the game’s other standouts, Rudy Gobert, in the paint for points at the rim. Gobert finished with 13 points on 6-for-6 shooting, nine boards and five big blocked shots. We must take care when looking at these guys through summer league shades, but if Hood and Gobert can become players who perform this way consistently, it will be a boon to Utah’s second unit. This is huge for a Jazz team that lacked depth last season.
For their part, Exum and Parker had moments. Exum put a defender on the ground with a combination of dribbling and spin moves early in the game and was a ball mover on offense. Parker started slowly, but he appeared to become more engaged as the game went on, despite his team’s lackluster effort. He had an equally impressive spin-and-crossover move for a long jumper late in the game.
In the end, the Jazz won in a laugher and the star picks in the game didn’t exactly land many knockout punches. But Hood’s display in the third quarter gave Jazz fans something to be excited about.