If someone asked Utah Jazz General Manager Dennis Lindsey whether Dante Exum would be available with the No. 5 pick in Thursday’s NBA Draft, he may have just laughed it off.
And if Lindsey was asked whether Rodney Hood could be had at No. 23, he probably would’ve been incredulous.
Or maybe not.
“We did probability and statistics on it, and we thought there would be a slim chance that he was there,” Lindsey said. “We were really happy that he was available, because he can come in and help us. We feel like he’s a strong player and a strong character.”
Lindsey happily snatched him up. Hood was at the top of Utah’s big board by the end of the first round, while the small forward from Duke sat lonely in the Green Room. Upon his selection, he choked up with tears walking to the podium, a sure sign that waiting to be plucked and wondering how long his slide was going to last had become an arduous task.
Hood became Utah’s second first-round draft pick, much to the delight of both sides. Before the draft, this was a guy who made many lottery predictions in various mock drafts. So his drop through the draft board was surprising to almost everyone involved.
“At some point, you just want to hear your name called,” Hood said. “I’m just excited to be a part of the Jazz. It’s not how high you go, but what you do. It just adds to the chip on my shoulder.”
While Utah drafted a player long on potential in Exum, Hood is someone who comes in NBA-ready. He’s 21 years old, has a chiseled body and has the confidence that he can come in and be a rotation guy right away for the Jazz.
He played the number two role to Jabari Parker while at Duke, but fills a big small forward need for the Jazz. He’s left-handed, explosive off the dribble and shot 42 percent from 3-point range for the Blue Devils.
In the days before the draft, Utah tried feverishly to move up in order to take Parker or Andrew Wiggins. The Jazz instead stayed put, and ended up getting a scoring small forward regardless.
“I feel like I’m a guy who can come in and score,” Hood said. “I know that I have to adjust to the pace of the game, and the strength of the guys in the league. But I feel like it’s basketball, and that I’m ready to go.”
Hood has familiarity with some of the Jazz roster. He knows point guard Trey Burke well. He knows big man Derrick Favors from his AAU days with the Atlanta Celtics. So even if he hasn’t been to Salt Lake City personally, his adjustment will be made smoother by some of his relationships.
And — of course — there’s the Duke connection. New head coach Quin Snyder and new assistant Antonio Lang both played and coached for the Blue Devils. In that sense, Hood will be familiar with the system he’s about to play in.
“It means a lot,” Hood said. “Duke is a family, a brotherhood. I just thank coach Snyder, the general manager and the people who made the decision to take me. I really appreciate it.”
• 6-foot-8, 210 pounds
• Small forward
• Was an All-Conference selection at Duke
• Began his career at Mississippi State
• Played against Stew Morrill and Utah State during his freshman season