5. The Jazz will always have two guys who can bring the ball up the court, but will usually have three. Rodney Hood isn’t just a guy who CAN bring the ball up, he seems to thrive doing it. During the third quarter, he picked up a loose ball and drove coast to coast with ease and scored an and-one on a sweeping lay-up. He looks extremely natural handling the ball. We already know that the Jazz have used Alec Burks and Gordon Hayward to push the ball up the court. So between Hayward, Burks, Burke, Hood, and Exum the Jazz have five guys that can grab the ball and go. This will be an important part of the team’s identity this year.
4. Rudy Gobert can move! During the first half, Gobert had two different defense-to-offense sequences that were especially impressive. On the first, he had one of those big time rejections that makes the crowd collectively say “oooooohhh” then he jetted down court, grabbed a loose ball and converted a little three-foot turn around plus the foul. Then a couple of minutes later, he was forced to defend his man on the perimeter and he looked very natural doing it. After his man passed the ball, he quickly got into the lane and made a steal. He then ran down court, caught the ball in the post and made a beautiful interior pass to the open man for a lay-up. These are big time plays for him and frankly you don’t see 7-1 guys do these things. However….
3. Rudy really has to work on his free throws. He’s going to get a lot of minutes this year. Maybe 20-25 a game, and if he doesn’t get better at the line, teams will foul him intentionally. His aggressive play is going to earn him a ton of offensive rebounds and he’s going to get fouled on put backs. He needs to work on his form and make it more consistent. I don’t want to be too critical however, since he has been extremely impressive so far.
2. Malcolm Thomas is going to make the team. Jazz fans know this guy. He has a decent mid-range game, works hard, pretty good defender and a high-character glue guy. Sadly, he might be the replacement for Jeremy Evans.
1. Dante! Fans that are just looking at the box score need to understand that it only shows part of the story. When evaluating Dante Exum right now, fans should be more focused on what tools he has and what things he’s going to need to work on to enable him to stay in the game. Against the Sixers, Exum showed some of these tools. During the first half, Exum threw the ball away, but stole the ball back. Then he went straight up and threw down a dunk. It’s not every day you see a point guard take one step and throw down a dunk.
In the fourth quarter, he got the ball behind the arch with only a few seconds left on the 24 second clock. His height allowed him to see over the top of the defense and he made a great pass to the post even though the player he was throwing the pass to was fronted. That’s a tough pass.
With less than two minutes to go and the Jazz down 3, he got an open look from behind the arc and nailed it to tie the game.
His speed and vision were both apparent. He has a ton to learn, but the tools are there. Given the low-level of competition he’s faced thus far in his career I’m very impressed with how he handled his first game against NBA competition.