Staff Scrimmage: Pecking Order of Jazz Player Value

October 4th, 2017 | by Salt City Hoops

Gobert is SCH’s unanimous pick as Utah’s MVP this season (Brent Asay via utahjazz.com)

The Salt City Hoops crew is back to answering the burning questions facing the Jazz this season.

On Monday, five of our columnists and contributors kicked off the preseason┬áby tackling topics such as the Jazz’s success and who will exceed expectations.

Today, five more SCHers answer the call, this time to sort through the pecking order of who’s most valuable to the 2017-18 Jazz. Unsurprisingly, there is consensus at the top. But after that, our writers have differing opinions on which players will matter second most, third most and so on.

Who will be the best / most valuable Jazz player this season?

Clint Johnson: Rudy Gobert. Easy answer. He was the team’s best and most valuable player even when Gordon Hayward was here. Now, it’s hard to see any other answer. The Jazz will advance as far as their defense takes them and that defense is built on the shoulders of Gobert, tactically and culturally.

Clark Schmutz: I measure the “best” Jazz player as who contributes to wins in the most impactful way. How do they impact the team offense and defense? Gobert, with 13.3 projected wins added is the easy and obvious answer.

Julia Mecham: This has to be the anointed face of the franchise, Gobert. His defense remains the anchor to the Jazz ship, especially after the offseason waves. Last season he proved he can be a force on both ends, rolling to the basket and finishing with greater efficiency than ever. The addition of pass-first PG Ricky Rubio probably means even more opportunities for Gobert to show his polished skills inside. Gobert also has a ton or pride, and his commitment to each possession will continue to energize the team to follow his lead.

Spencer Wixom: Gobert. The star center is simply the best player on the Jazz roster and a top 15 player in the NBA. The Jazz’s playoff hopes hinge on being a top-three defensive team, something Gobert makes possible. He will lead the team in rebounds, blocks, dunks and virtually every defensive metric.

Dan Clayton: Yeah, we can just easy-button this one. See also…

Who will be the second best / most valuable Jazz player this season?

Clint: I suspect Rubio will justify Dennis Lindsey’s admittedly high expectations. he’s a savant with the ball, and pairing him with Gobert and Derrick Favors in the pick-and-roll should allow him to manipulate defenses. Shooting is going to be a problem this season, but if the team manages respectable offense despite that, it will be because Rubio has the reins.

Clark: Rubio (7.9 projected wins). There is Rudy and then there is a close 4-way race for second place, but Rubio will contribute just a little more than all of his non-French teammates.

Julia: This is where things start to get fuzzy. Favors might be considered a dark horse for this slot, but he has shown steady improvement in point production and reliable rim protection throughout his career, aside from his injury-plagued seasons. Whether he can get back to borderline All-Star numbers of 2-3 seasons ago remains to be seen, but at full health Favors is an all-around threat that many have written off prematurely.

Spencer: While Rubio is not generally considered among the NBA’s elite point guards, he has almost every skill that we equate with that group. Last year, he finished sixth in assist percentage, fifth in assists per game, his team shot better with him on the floor, and he did that while only using 17.4% of his team’s possessions while on the court (233rd in the league). Quin Snyder is handing over the keys to Rubio, and he is going to run their offensive entirely. He’s also one of the better defensive point guards. He was the best or second best point guard in defensive real plus-minus for three straight years before finishing 11th last season. He he has an insane basketball IQ and is consistently at or near the top of the league for steal rate. If his shooting numbers go up at all, he could be considered a top PG.

Dan: This is a two-man race in my mind, and really, Favors’ and Rubio’s performances this season will be largely intertwined. If Favors has a 16-and-8 type of year, it will have a lot to do with Rubio’s creation ability setting Favors up to show off his versatility as a finisher, capable of short-roll jumpers and power-packed rim dives. If Rubio does what Lindsey hopes in leading the league in assists, it will largely be the result of having two above-average roll men as targets, as well as having two defensive bigs to help create stops that lead to transition. I’m going with Favors here because I think there’s a chance he could lead the Jazz in scoring, but he and Rubio are both going to be vital if the Jazz unleash their best case scenario.

Who will be the third best / most valuable Jazz player this season?

Clint: If he’s healthy and fit, Favors. There’s simply more talent and experience there than in any player other than Gobert. This comes from a longtime Favors believer, but I can see a scenario where he ends the season as the team’s best overall offensive contributor and a serious All-Defensive Team candidate.

Clark: Favors (6.7 projected wins) is going to find his footing, be a large part of the Jazz’s elite defense while on the floor, and contribute offensively with putbacks and rolls as the back-up center. And he will play 70-75 games.

Julia: Rodney Hood is being asked to do more than he ever has before, and it’s not clear1 if he can answer all those expectations. Somewhat unproven, he drops to third most valuable for me. He’s been streaky in seasons past, but maybe with the confidence that he’s the first scoring option, he will thrive. The Jazz definitely need him to. When he plays instinctively (see: no timeout taken, push the ball, sink game winner vs. the Mavs), he and the Jazz succeed. If he can consistently exhibit the air of quiet confidence he has brought to several 20+ games last December and January, he will become a reliable cog in the Jazz’s success this season.

Spencer: Favors. Two years ago we were arguing about whether this was Favors’ or Hayward’s team. The injuries have certainly impacted Favors, but even with him basically playing on one leg last season, the club was 2.3 points per 100 better than opponents with him on the court. If he’s healthy enough to run, he could lead the team in scoring. His health will have a bigger impact on this season than any player not named Gobert.

Dan: Rubio, as my last answer explains. Fav and Rubio are really 2A and 2B in this discussion, at least if everything goes right.

Who will be the fourth best / most valuable Jazz player this season?

Clint: Hood. This would likely disappoint pretty much everyone should it play out this way, especially Hood, who has gone on record as setting his sights on the league’s Most Improved Player award. But moving into the primary scorer role will be a massive change and I think he will struggle under the burden. He’ll have a solid season, but probably not meet hopes and expectations.

Clark: Hood (6.6 projected wins). I think it will be an up and down year for Hood on both sides of the ball, but he’s going to play in more than 65 games, and his minutes played will allow him to be the fourth most impactful player on the team.

Julia: The looming question is where the Jazz’s points will come from. Rubio will be key in setting up much of the Jazz’s offensive production. He can jump start a team that may struggle in halfcourt sets, pushing the ball to create early offense. The virtue of a good point guard’s role on a team puts Rubio in close contention for the third slot, but Hood’s ability to score in bunches gave him the slight edge. That said, Rubio’s unselfish play, underrated defense, and pace-pushing mindset could make him a great fit in the Jazz culture and even change some aspects of that culture for the better.

Spencer: Donovan Mitchell. While the growth this season from other players is not projected to be huge with where they are at in their careers, Mitchell could elevate the team to another level with his growth. Mitchell was one of the most impressive rookies at Summer League and has upside that the Jazz haven’t seen from a rookie since Gobert. Mitchell has the abilities to be the best offensive player on the team, while also being one of their key guard defenders. If he steps in and can be what some people think he can, the Jazz will surpass expectations.

Dan: Count me among those who are worried about the idea of Hood, already a 22.9% usage player last season with below-average TS%, increasing his shot output before he has really addressed the efficiency concerns. That said, if Gobert, Favors and Rubio are as good as the Jazz need them to be, then Hood has the luxury of quietly refining his game without a ton of pressure. He might be good enough to lead an offense at some point; for now, I’m more comfortable imagining him as the fourth best player on a really deep team.

Who will be the fifth best / most valuable Jazz player this season?

Clint: Dante Exum. With no obviously more likely prospect, I’ll take a leap of faith on Exum. He started finding ways to get to the rim and dunk on people late last season. If he plays with that pace and confidence, cans a respectable number of wide open threes, and defends like he did as a rookie, that’s a quality player.

Clark: Joe Ingles (5.9 projected wins). Efficient scoring and above average defense will allow Ingles to have an impact similar to last season. Only his minutes played will keep him from the fourth spot.

Julia: Ingles has been called a glue guy by Snyder from the beginning. His value lies beyond the number, but his three-point shooting, passing ability, surprisingly tough defense and IQ certainly don’t hurt his case for fifth best Jazz player. If he can maintain his three-point percentage from last season and unbridled vocal leadership (I don’t think that’s going anywhere), I think he will be central to a surprisingly successful Jazz season.

Spencer: As a main scoring option for the Jazz, Hood would be higher than fifth on my list if not for concerns about his health and efficiency. Hood has missed 58 games in this three-year career. He is going through a new training process with the Jazz staff, but there should be real concern about increasing his workload. He will likely be facing the opposing team’s best defender every night. Can his body hold up? And to really be an offensive force, Hood needs to increase his efficiency. He has the mechanics to be a 40% three-point shooter, which would be the easiest way to increase his overall efficiency. He also needs to get to the line more often.

Dan: I’m tempted to bet on Exum here. Very tempted. Ingles is just the safer answer right now. The fact that Ingles wrested both the starting job and clutch minutes away from the guy I just put in the fourth spot speaks to Jingles’ importance and savvy. The argument against putting Slo-Mo here is that Rubio’s arrival will lessen the need for Joe to handle as much or defensively pester point guards. But then, Rubio being on the squad will also make it hard for Exum to get the minutes Joe will see. Tough call, so I’ve chosen to invoke the tie-goes-to-the-guy-who-has-already-been-a-top-five-Jazz-player rule.

Scooooore-boooard

OK, so for those who like to keep score, here’s how our panel sees the Jazz’s most valuable conversation shaking out.

  1. Gobert, average rank 1.0 (all five 1st place votes)
  2. Rubio, average rank 2.6 (three 2nd place votes, one 3rd and one 4th)
  3. Favors, average rank 2.6 (two 2nd place votes, three 3rd)
  4. Hood, average rank 4.0 (a 3rd place vote, three 4th, one 5th)
  5. Ingles, average rank 5.4 (three 5th place votes, left off two ballots)

Mitchell (one 4th place vote) and Exum (5th) also received votes.

 

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