Brandon Rush: Part of the Now and the Future

July 31st, 2013 | by David J Smith

As is always the case, it is interesting to see national takes on anything Utah Jazz-related. Naturally there has been a lot of discussion of late regarding the big Jazz/Golden State Warriors trade. In his column analyzing the NBA off-season to this point, Grantland’s Bill Simmons writes the following (tying different quotes from the movie Midnight Run to happenings in the Association):

“Don’t worry, Eddie. For 25 grand I’ll bring him in on a silver platter!”

To the Jazz, who let Al Jefferson and Paul Millsap leave, then assumed $24 million of Andris Biedrins–Richard Jefferson–Brandon Rush cap cloggage from Golden State just to get its unprotected 2014 and 2017 no. 1 picks. I’m all for bottoming out for 2014’s mega-draft and rebuilding around Derrick Favors, Enes Kanter, Alec Burks, Gordon Hayward, Trey Burke and picks/cap space … but $24 million of dead contracts for two first-rounders???? Thanks to Utah for making me feel better about the Celtics taking on three years and $30.3 million of Gerald Wallace’s basketball cadaver. For about four minutes.

Like many other national writers, Simmons sees why Utah made that move–to acquire assets, maintain flexibility, and center around their young core. And like some of his contemporaries, he also thinks the Jazz may have assumed too much money in return for those draft picks. I’m not here today to discuss those nuances of the trade, as that has been excellently covered my by fellow Salt City Hoops friends.

Here’s where I want to focus: Simmons includes Brandon Rush with Andris Biedrins and Richard Jefferson as “cap cloggage” and “dead contracts.” I respectfully disagree with Rush’s inclusion therein.

You wish to know why? I thought you’d never ask. In my opinion, Brandon Rush was a key part of the trade (along with those first-round picks) and is very much a cog in the now and the future of the Utah Jazz. In fact, his coming to Utah is one of the reasons I am genuinely excited about the upcoming season, which simply cannot arrive soon enough.

Without further ado, here are reasons I am big on Rush:

  • First off, his contract is anything but onerous. At $4 million, that is an absolute bargain for a knock-down shooter, as other off-season pacts for similar players have shown (Kyle Korver at four-years, $24 million and J.J. Redick at four-years, $27 million). Picking him up was an excellent use of cap space. Had he been a free agent, getting him for $4 million would have been a complete steal.
  • From things I’ve heard over the past few seasons, Utah has long been fans of his game. My guess is that Jazz brass insisted that he be a part of this transaction for that reason– not just to be roster/salary fodder, but to see if he can fit into the fabric of what Utah is weaving with their young team. I believe they are confident that he will.
  • Yes, he is coming off a horrible injury, but by all accounts, he will be ready to go for the season’s start.
  • His last full season in 2011-12: a career-best 9.8 ppg (50.1% field goals, 45.2% three-pointers, and 79.3% free-throws, for a True Shooting Percentage of 62.8%), 3.9 rpg, 1.4 apg, and 0.9 bpg in 26.4 mpg. That is solid production from one of your key reserves.
  • Perimeter marksmanship is essential, and with the Jazz opting to part ways with Randy Foye (and Mo Williams), Rush’s outside shooting will be crucial to the make-up of the team, especially in an offense that will still focus on Utah’s big men. He has eclipsed the 41% mark each of his past three healthy seasons and sports a 41.3% career mark. And again, he shot 45% his last complete season. That’s 9 makes for every 20 attempts. I’ll take it.
  • Speaking of which, it is equally easy for Rush to fit in start or come in off the bench. It naturally depends on how head coach Tyrone Corbin’s rotation shakes out, but supposing Derrick Favors, Enes Kanter, Gordon Hayward, and Trey Burke are tabbed as starters, Rush’s shooting could help balance out that unit’s offense. Alec Burks could then be a featured scorer off the bench, while capitalizing on his ball-handling skills when playing with guys like John Lucas III or the newest Jazzman, Ian Clark. Either way, Hayward, Burks, and Rush appear to be a solid three-man rotation on the wings.
  • Rush will get ample opportunities to assume a bigger role than he had with Indiana or Golden State, without interfering with the young guys’ development and growth. There are ample minutes and shots to spread around and Rush can definitely help fill the need for scoring and veteran play.
  • At 6’6″ and 210 lbs, I can envision Rush playing small forward in some line-ups. This will be big for the first portion of the season, as Marvin Williams works his way back into the line-up.
  • I love the 0.9 bpg from the wing position. He brings athleticism and defensive effort to the table.
  • He just turned 28 and pending his return from his injury, he is entering his prime. He is also in a contract year, so will be motivated to perform. And if/when he does, Utah may look to lock him up using a portion of their ample monetary reserves in the 2014 off-season.
  • He is very active and, better yet, interactive on Twitter. Make sure to follow him if you aren’t already.

Obviously Biedrins and Jefferson have monstrous contracts, are coming off poor seasons, and on paper, look like dead weight. Their time in Utah most likely will be short-lived.

Brandon Rush, on the other hand, is different in every way. He is a guy who can factor heavily into the now and the future of the team.

David J Smith

David J Smith

Besides writing for Salt City Hoops, David contributes to the Utah Jazz coverage for the Deseret News and has written for the Utah Jazz website and (now Basketball Insiders). He graduated from BYU and works for LDS Philanthropies. He and his incredibly patient wife, Elizabeth, have some amazing children--four girls and two boys. Voted "Most Likely to Replace Jerry Sloan" in high school.
David J Smith

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  1. Clint Johnson says:

    I completely agree, David. I see Rush as an upgrade on Randy Foye if he comes back at anything like his pre-injury caliber. He has a chance to be a legit 3 and D guy, and the Jazz haven’t really had a player like that since Bryon Russell. Grossly undervalued asset in that trade.

  2. David J Smith says:

    Clint, I agree that he could be a great 3 and D guy. If that’s the case and Hayward does the same (he’s got the potential, too), watch out opposing wing players.

  3. Jazzaholic says:

    This was like getting a 3rd first round pick in the trade, except he’s a proven player, unlike a draft pick.

    It will be exciting to watch him work into the lineup.

    • Laura says:

      Given Corbin’s penchant for playing veterans significant minutes even when not necessarily warranted (see Bell, Howard, Foye, etc.), I wonder how much “work[ing] into the lineup” he’ll even have to do.

      Though I agree I’m intrigued to see how he fits. I just don’t think he’ll have to do much to get a good chunk of minutes.

  4. David J Smith says:

    Jazzaholic, that’s a great way of looking at it. Yes, Biedrins and Jefferson account for a combined $20 million. But acquiring Rush is a very underratedly (is that a word?) good move.

  5. Roy Smith says:

    I’ve liked Rush’s game for years, and stated numerous times in various Jazz forums my desire for him to be part of the team. I should note that some people are greatly overestimating his defensive “prowess” because he is an above average defender at best.

    But what he brings on offense as an outside threat will be invaluable to open up space for the young bigs to work down low, and to open up lanes for teammates cutting to the basket.

  6. David J Smith says:

    Good thoughts, Roy. After the last few seasons of defense, I’ll gladly take an “above average” defender! Your points on his outside shooter are spot-on.

    • Clint Johnson says:

      Absolutely. Moving from Foye to Rush is moving from a poor defender to a better than average defender. Combine that with swapping Jefferson and Millsap for Favors and Kanter, and the defense improves by miles.

  7. JP says:

    I agree that the addition of Rush is the ONLY positive outcome of that trade, unless RJ makes a miraculous comeback and plays like he did a few years ago. Biedrins, IMO, never was worth much and likely won’t do much here. With the Clark signing, I had figured there may be a logjam at the 2 with Burks, Rush, and Clark. But Clark is a combo and I suspect he’ll see more time at PG. It will certainly be interesting, fun, and perhaps even a little frustrating, to see how the line-ups flush out.

  8. Delta says:

    While all of these are compelling arguments, what still makes me wary is the fact that all of this hinges on a complete recovery from a serious knee injury. A knee injury like that isn’t fully cleared up, even after rehab, and often the knee is never the same. You can’t assume his shooting will still be there on a bum knee, and you certainly cant expect the defense and the athleticism to be there.

    The real silver lining here that isnt mentioned is that hes cheap AND on a short contract. Best case is whats outlined here, worst case is hes a completely different player after the injury and we let him go with no long term cap damage.

  9. jasonleco says:

    As a guy who has watched hundreds of games Brandon Rush played over his career, I’d like to point out that Brandon Rush isn’t an above-average defender. He is an elite defender. One of the absolute best perimeter defenders in the league. Calling him above-average is an insult. Once he gets his legs back, you will be in awe of his defense. He has the ability to chase a guy down the length of the court and swat shots ala Lebron James and Iggy. He’s not as good as those 2 guys, but he’s really really good.

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