Rodney Hood: Right Player, Wrong Time

As the trade deadline creeps closer, the rumors have begun to flood in.

The Chicago Bulls are open for business and are looking to sell, according to K.C. Johnson of The Chicago Tribune. But they could also be buyers, too.

Utah Jazz forward Rodney Hood will be available at the deadline, and the Bulls are one of three teams interested in acquiring the four-year pro, according to Tony Jones of The Salt Lake Tribune.

In many ways, the Bulls having an interest in Hood makes sense. A product of a vaunted collegiate program who the Bulls put through a pre-draft workout in 2014, Hood fits the profile of a typical John Paxson prospect. And in his NBA career, growing into a capable shooting threat, it stands to reason head coach Fred Hoiberg could find a place for Hood within his offense.

Though the Bulls may have an interest in Hood, the more compelling question to ask is should they?

In a vacuum, Hood is a good player and would certainly help the Bulls next season. As a restricted free agent, acquiring him prior to close of the trade deadline shouldn’t be a costly exercise, either. But trading for Hood shouldn’t be about what it will take to get him, more so what it may cost you long-term if you do.

Trading for and presumably re-signing Hood to his next contract, represents a similar issue the Bulls face with Zach LaVine.

‘Flexibility’ is a buzz word General Manager Gar Forman and Executive Vice President of Basketball Operations John Paxson love to tout. Luring prospective marquee free agents has been a cyclical process for the Bulls throughout Paxson’s reign in Chicago. An open salary cap allows for that, and the Bulls have positioned themselves nicely to make such a play during either the 2018 or 2019 free agency period.

Re-signing one – or both – changes that dynamic and represents an opportunity cost. Both LaVine and Hood will require an eight-figure annualised commitment. Handing out two large, multi-year deals one year into the rebuild would undoubtedly reduce available cap space in future years, potentially costing the Bulls a shot at landing a franchise-changing free agent.

If the Bulls are convinced that LaVine and Hood are the future at shooting guard and small forward, making this investment now could be their strategy. And if that’s the case, it’s somewhat concerning.

LaVine and Hood, though good, are limited players. In contract and performance, the Bulls cannot afford to carry two wing players who have a history of being limited playmakers and defensive players.

LaVine is already here and has been positioned as a franchise cornerstone. The legitimacy of this can be questioned, and adding Hood to the fold would only compound the equation.

Hood, 25, has never played all 82 games in an NBA season, missing time each season with an array for injuries. Whilst his 36.9 career three-point percentage would assist Hoiberg’s spaced-out offense, Hood has never been an efficient scorer – his four seasons in the league, to date, have been at or under league average in true-shooting percentage.

As a third or fourth option, being used primarily as a shooter more so than an isolation scorer, there’s scope for Hood to improve on his scoring efficiency. Shooting alone, though, isn’t enough. Hood will need to improve as an all-round player.

On the season, Hood owns a 5.9 percent rebounding percentage and a 10.1 assist percentage. Of players with these numbers or less, all are specialists, playing bit-roles in limited minutes. That would be fine if Hood were being paid to be that player. In Chicago, though, being re-signed to a four-year, $44 million deal, he’d be asked to be so much more.

That isn’t enough to justify a trade at the deadline, and it’s certainly not enough to commit big money.

As a finishing piece to the starting unit or a nice sixth man option, acquiring and paying for a player like Hood makes sense in two or three years’ time, when the rebuild is truly over and the young core is trending upward upon their trajectory. The Bulls aren’t there yet, which makes Hood the right player at the wrong time.

Bulls management shouldn’t feel any need to accelerate the timeline of the rebuild. Acquiring a limited player like Hood, and paying a hefty price to retain him long-term, would do exactly that.

Rebuilding the roster with precision, operating in the draft and taking on bad contracts for future draft concessions, is the play the Bulls need to be making at deadline. Selling now, not buying, is the logic decision. More of that, please, and less interest in good and soon-to-be expensive role players who will only expedite an impulsive push back toward the playoffs and mediocrity.

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