On Tuesday, the Utah Jazz announced that swingman Rodney Hood will be out until All-Star break, at which point he will be reevaluated. That is sobering news for the promising rookie who has gone through an onslaught of foot injuries during his first season. At a minimum, Hood will miss 12 games–possibly more.
Given that news, will rookie Elijah Millsap have the chance to stick on the Jazz roster for the duration of the season?
Millsap inked his second 10-day contract on January 15th, meaning he has two more games before Utah must make a decision. As has been the case during his stint, he most likely will get solid minutes. It’ll be a big few days for Millsap.
Should he stick? How has he fared thus far?
Statistically, not so well1. Millsap is averaging 5.0 PPG, 2.1 RPG, 1.0 APG, 1.0 SPG and 0.7 BPG in 21.1 MPG. He has been crashing the boards, has showed some deft passing and is active defensively. His shooting has been rough, though. Millsap has hit just 12 of 40 shots (30.0 percent). While he’s been quite good from beyond the arc–6-14 (42.9 percent), he is firing a lot of blanks on his 2-pointers– 6 of 26 (23.1 percent). The advanced stats, as result, are not too kind, as Salt City Hoops managing editor Andy Larsen reminded me last night: 3.0 PER with just .406 TS%. Additionally, he is coughing up the ball frequently, as evidenced by his 23.2 TOV%. Fortunately, it is not all bleak for Millsap’s numbers. His quick hands and anticipation on defense have led to very good 2.7 BLK% and 2.5 STL% marks.
All this said, there are some disclaimers to be noted. First, we are looking at player who just 16 days again was toiling in the D-League. It is rare that a call-up is thrust into this prominent a role for this many minutes right away. Millsap has played 17 or more minutes in six of his seven games, eclipsing 20+ minutes four times.
Second, head coach Quin Snyder’s schemes on both ends of the court are a bit complex. At the halfway point, there is still a lot of acclimation still occurring for the regulars. With this in mind, Millsap’s been admirable. In many cases, he has been in the right place on offense and is not hesitant if open. The shots simply have not been falling. He plays aggressively and confidently. He shows a solid ability to drive to the basket; he just needs to work on finishing (41.7 percent inside). In Snyder’s offense, you can never have too many passers or facilitators, as Millsap is willing on this front.
Millsap gives tireless effort, leading to all sorts of talk about his family’s DNA. The Jazz have long said that effort is a talent or skill, and Millsap definitely has that. Because of his all-out play, some of his mistakes are forgivable. The 3-point shooting has been welcome, especially with Alec Burks and Hood out2.
His biggest strength has clearly been on defense. Millsap has a good combination of speed and size, which allows him to stick with his man and to body up when needed. As Utah’s perimeter defense has been a challenge the first half of the season, his play has been refreshing.
There is a lot for Millsap to work on. His ball handling and decision making need to improve. He coughed the ball up 11 times over a three-game span, but has just two miscues his last 50 minutes. And, of course, the shooting. He also earned a bit of Snyder’s ire for his recent technical, upon which his coach admonished his team to not talk to the referees so much. Chalk that up to passion.
All this said, it will be very interesting to see what happens both with Millsap and fellow 10-day contract player Elliot Williams. Utah likes the flexibility of having a roster spot to use on trying out players (SCH’s Dakota Schmidt highlighted some potential fits. Williams might be the causality in that scenario.)
If I was a betting man, Millsap will stay. The Jazz seem to like what he offers and perhaps his potential to improve as time progresses.