Each passing game gives Utah Jazz fans a little more of a sample size to gauge, assess, critique and react. Last week, we took a look at the Jazz starters; it is time to take a gander at Utah’s bench and look at how the reserves are performing thus far.
Trevor Booker: From his preseason fracas with Blake Griffin, to his tireless energy and effort, it is safe to say that Trevor Booker is already a fan favorite. He has injected a lot of life and is a much-needed enforcer that Utah has lacked in recent years. Booker started out of fire and has tapered off a bit the past few games, which can be expected with anyone. Through eight games, the 6’8″ power forward is contributing 9.4 PPG (on 56 percent shooting) and 4.4 RPG. The 6-14 3-point shooting (42.9 percent) has been a welcome addition, but beyond that, some of those treys have come at crucial junctures in games. Booker sports a 17.7 PER and .610 TS%, which are both quite a bit above his career norms. His .100 WS/48 min is fourth among the regulars. He’s struggled a touch the past few outings, but the early returns indicate that he is a tremendous addition to the roster–another solid Dennis Lindsey move.
Dante Exum: The prized rookie’s quick progress has been a fun story line. We knew the Jazz would be bringing the 19-year old Exum along at a cautious pace, but his play has been slowly, but surely demanding more and more on-court time. He numbers are solid – 6.3 PPG, 2.6 APG, 1.8 RPG and his shooting quite a bit better than advertised (44.7 percent from the floor). It’s his poise that has been exciting. He plays with a maturity, makes smart basketball decisions (for the most part) and is constantly looking to involve his teammates. Evidence: a 3.5 assist/turnover ratio and just 11.9 TOV%. His 117 ORtg is second to only Gordon Hayward. He will need to do a lot work on the defensive end and will be put through a physical ringer. Over 60 percent of his shots have come beyond the arc, where he’s just 30.4 percent. So far, however, his flashes of brilliance and heady play for a rookie have got to have the Jazz coaching staff and front office quite excited.
Rudy Gobert: After a fantastic summer, Gobert had a nice start to his sophomore campaign. He is contributing (4.6 PPG, 4.5 RPGand 1.3 BPG in 16.0 MPG) and putting in good effort. It’s easy to see the progress. He is much more capable as a finisher (66.7 percent around the basket) and his teammates are setting him up to succeed (76.9 percent of his baskets are assisted). Exum and Gobert have already established a pretty fun chemistry. His improved touch at the free throw line (73.3 percent), coupled with his high .682 FTr, has been an added boon. Gobert is expectedly affecting the games defensively, as seen by his team-best DRtg. His obvious length is enhanced by his mobility, which enables him to cover a lot of ground quickly. He sometimes gets overpowered or misses assignments or has DeAndre Jordan dunk on him1. But the 7’2″ big man is coming along well. He is a keeper.
Joe Ingles: Ingles’ stats appear quite pedestrian–2.1 PPG, 1.3 RPG and 1.1 APG. He has just a 7.1 PER and a ,504 TS%. But the Aussie forward has added a nice dynamic to the second unit. His passing, in particular, has been fun to watch. Ingles always has his head up and his eyes open for a teammate. The first few games, he made some dishes that were very good. As of late, his perimeter shooting has picked up (81.3 percent of all his shots have been from downtown). He definitely has his struggles on defense, but it’s clear that head coach Quin Snyder feels confident in him2. He’s an intangibles guy. Not a bad pick up off the waiver wire.
Rodney Hood: Hood’s recent injury is a set-back, as his shooting was starting to come along. To say his shot was not falling is a major understatement. He is shooting a mere 25.8 percent from the field and is just 3-12 on 3-pointers. Hood sometimes has been tentative on offense– a few instances where he made a nice drive, but pauses just enough to allow defenses to gather, resulting in having to pass the ball out. The best part of his game thus far has been his rebounding. His 13.1 TRB% is strong for a rookie swingman. Hood really crashes the defensive boards–his 23.2 DRB% is tops on the Jazz. This bodes well if he is able to contribute in other ways when he is struggling with his shot. Several games, he was the first player off the bench for Snyder3. Here’s hoping for a speedy recovery for the rookie.
The rest: The other reserves have seen minimal time. Steve Novak and Ian Clark have done well when called upon, a trait that undoubtedly is appreciated by Utah’s coaching staff. Guys who keep themselves ready tend to be favorites in the locker room. Jeremy Evans is clearly the forgotten man in the crowded Utah front court. He showed he can contribute, but may also have to bide his time. Toure’ Murry has not played yet–he’s only be on the active roster the past two games, thanks to Hood’s injury.
All in all, the bench is starting to gel. Snyder has established a ten-man rotation and there have been times where the reserves not only maintain momentum, but have added to it. It will be enjoyable to watch how these five play the next 10-15 games.