July 31, 2017, 9:48 pm
Hoop-Ball’s Post-Mortem series takes a look at the 2016-17 season and what went right and wrong for every team. From coaching analysis to fantasy impact, we dive in to the year that was and make sense of it all. If you’ve missed any, you can find them here.
The Jazz surpassed many expectations in 2016-17. They finished with 51 wins, which is 10 more than last year and their best record in the last seven years. What was even more impressive was their first playoff appearance in five years despite an injury plagued season, as only three players on the team were able to suit up for more than 73 games. They won the Northwest Division and even made it into the second round, losing to the eventual champion Warriors. The season could be considered a success based on records and achievements, but there was one failure that will have many long-term effects on the franchise. The Hoop-Ball Post-Mortem takes a closer look at Utah’s noteworthy season.
Apart from obvious objectives such as winnings games and making the playoffs, there was another important goal of this season for the Jazz. That was to keep Gordon Hayward in Utah. The franchise player would enter free agency at the end of the season and the organization was determined to show that they were a viable option for a player who wanted to win.
During the 2016 offseason, they signed Rudy Gobert to a contract extension while exercising their rights to Rodney Hood, Dante Exum and Trey Lyles. The Jazz roster had not changed much in recent memory, but they added veteran sharpshooter Joe Johnson in the summer. These efforts further enforced that the Jazz would try to be competitive in the West after failing to make the playoffs for five straight years, but they would need to find a quality point guard after struggling year in and year out to replace Deron Williams. Cue trade to acquire George Hill, in which the Jazz gave up forward Taurean Prince. Hill appeared to be a perfect fit for the Jazz, as he doesn’t need much of the ball to be effective, allowing Hayward to command the offense. He also possessed formidable defensive skills that matched Utah’s play style, and his acquisition rounded off one of the strongest rosters the Jazz had assembled in quite some time.
The injuries came fast right from the start of the season. Hayward and Alec Burks were unable to start the season due to a broken finger and ankle surgery, respectively. Derrick Favors couldn’t shake off knee problems that lingered throughout the season. Hill was great when healthy, but only played 49 games for his new team as he suffered on-going issues with a sore toe, sore thumb and concussion. Rodney Hood hyper-extended his knee at the start of the new year after experiencing hamstring problems early on in the season. The list goes on, but the key points to make are that the Jazz played 33 of their games while missing three or more rotation players. They were still 17-16 in these games, showing great resilience with bench players willing to step up when called upon.
As the season progressed, it seemed they were well on track to achieving both of their goals. Hayward was selected as an All-Star for the first time in his career and the Jazz sealed a playoff spot on March 26. Their 51-31 record tied them with the Clippers, although the Clippers would take the fourth seed with a better head-to-head record. They were victorious in the first round, with heroics from Joe Johnson and Hayward pushing them over the Blake-less Clippers in a tight seven-game series. They then faced the ridiculously overpowered Golden State Warriors who swept through them rather quickly, blaming their “lack of nightlife” as the reason for getting the series over so quickly. Losing to the Warriors doesn’t make you a bad team at all, and the Jazz had exceeded most expectations by winning 50 games, winning the Northwest Division, making the second-round of the playoffs and turning Gordon Hayward into an All-Star.
Unfortunately, it all wasn’t enough to hold onto him. Three teams emerged as front runners for signing Hayward, as he had to choose between the Heat, the Celtics or re-signing with the Jazz. He delayed his selection for a few weeks, which in turn stalled free agency, but finally declared in the Players Tribune that he would be reuniting with his college coach Brad Stevens and form a new big three in Boston alongside Isaiah Thomas and Al Horford.
The move left Utah with nothing to show for ample investment in Hayward, but it was hard not to see the reasoning. The Jazz won’t be doing much better than they did this year and the Warriors have a secure hold in the West for the foreseeable future. Hayward may sacrifice stats with the Celtics, but he now has the best chance of his career to make the NBA Finals and compete for a title. This leaves the Jazz to choose between hitting the reset button or trying to make the playoffs again, and the odds of a repeat performance aren’t looking nearly as good as they did a month ago.
Like Rudy Gobert, Quin Snyder was also signed to a contract extension in the summer. He would take the reins for the third year as head coach of the Jazz and hoped to make his first appearance in the playoffs. The injuries didn’t make it easy and he had to use 23 different starting lineups throughout the season. He pushed through these obstacles and orchestrated his team to, well, just keep going really. They faced many speed bumps and road blocks along the way but kept pushing through and ended up with the same record as the Cavaliers.
The Jazz played with the slowest pace in the NBA while rebounding at a high rate. While not a very fantasy friendly style, this type of play suffocates the opposition in limiting the possessions and shots that teams were able to put up. It fits the roster well with Rudy Gobert leading the defensive efforts and pulling down a career high 12.8 boards and swatting 2.6 shots per game. Snyder knows how to coach a defense, and the front office has given him the tools to create a lockdown squad.
To wit, Utah ranked third in defensive rating and finished top-10 in opponent points off turnovers (despite giving up plenty of turnovers, finishing just 21st in TO%), opponent second chance points, opponent fast break points and opponent points in the paint. This team will always bank on its defense, and they can shut down almost anyone they’ll face.
Offensively, the Jazz were ninth in terms of 3-point percentage but averaged just the 17th-most attempts from beyond. Perhaps more troubling is the fact that they posted an assist percentage of 54.4 – 23rd in the NBA. A lot of shots were created by isolation efforts, and with their lead dog gone it’s tough to see them making too many gains in that area. On the other hand, perhaps all the injuries kept the players from really gelling and threw the offense a bit off stride. A low assist percentage isn’t a death knell by any means, but it does point to the idea that Utah needs to work very hard to score on the limited possessions that a slow pace brings.
There was a case for Snyder to be a nominee for Coach of the Year, and it’s a fair claim. There is daylight between this team last year and this season as Snyder was able to flip the script on the old rhetoric that the Jazz were a team of the past. He also deserves plenty of credit for keeping the team, and particularly its depth players, ready for anything in a season with so many different lineup combinations. He’s a good one.
ADP: 46/48 (ESPN/Yahoo), Total Value: 15/11 (8/9 cat), Per-Game Value: 23/19 (8/9 cat), Games Played: 81
This was the Rudy Gobert breakout year that everyone had been waiting for. Most people predicted that it would happen in the ‘15-‘16 season, but Gobert failed to live up to lofty expectations that year. In that season, he averaged 9.1 points and 11.6 rebounds while shooting at worse rates than the previous year from both the field and the stripe. He was also only able to suit up for 61 games and his steals and blocks dropped off too. Consequently, he fell to the fourth or fifth round on draft day, and became one of the steals of the ‘16-’17 fantasy season.
Gobert churned out early round value on the total season, averaging 14.0 points, 12.8 rebounds, 1.2 assists, 2.6 blocks, 0.6 steals and 1.8 turnovers on 66.1 percent shooting and 65.3 percent from the free throw line. Not only were the points, rebounds and blocks all career highs, he led the league in blocks and was second behind DeAndre Jordan in field goal percentage. This was largely because 97.9 percent of Gobert’s shots were within 10 ft. of the hoop and 84.8 percent of shots were taken without a dribble. He was catching lobs and driving them home all season long while swatting away shots at the other end, and was almost awarded Defensive Player of the Year, but ended up losing out to Draymond Green.
Looking ahead, Gobert will now be the leader on a Jazz team that lost two of their best players in the form of Gordon Hayward and George Hill. The added responsibility of scoring may have a toll on Gobert’s defensive prowess, similar to what we saw with Hassan Whiteside last season. However, the addition of Ricky Rubio and his fancy passing may make it easier for Gobert to get to the basket, thus allowing him to save energy for protecting the rim. The general expectation is that his scoring will go up, but we are unsure if this will lead to a decline in other areas. Whatever the case, the Stifle Tower should be taken in the second round this year at the latest, as he looks to build on a very impressive campaign. He can bring the blocks, boards and efficiency while taking free throws at a lower volume and slightly higher percentage than most of the other bigs who are drafted for their three-cat contributions.
ADP: 40/50 (ESPN/Yahoo), Total Value: 33/33 (8/9 cat), Per-Game Value: 32/33 (8/9 cat), Games Played: 73
Gordon Hayward started off the season with a fracture in his left hand, and the uncertainty of when he would be able to play his first game meant he slipped further in drafts than he should have. He was generally taken around the fourth round, but made a swift return back to the court after missing just six games. In his first game against the Knicks, he made 14-of-14 free throws and scored 28 points, proving that the injury was not going cause problems with shooting going forward.
The versatile swingman averaged 21.9 points, 5.4 rebounds, 3.5 assists, 1.0 steals, 0.3 blocks, 1.9 turnovers and 2.0 treys while shooting 47.1 percent from the field, 39.8 percent from deep, and 84.4 percent from the line. A closer look shows that Hayward was the only forward in the league to own those impressive shooting percentages for the full regular season. He has a reputation of being a player who won’t hurt you anywhere, but will contribute in every stat while shooting with great efficiency. He is also known to always find a way back onto the court as he doesn’t stay out with an injury for too long. These qualities make for a reliable early-to-mid round player who has never finished outside the top 40 in the last three years (both 8 and 9 cat). However, all that could change heading in to the ‘17-‘18 season.
After the Jazz were swept by the Warriors in the postseason, Hayward entered the post-season as a free agent. He was arguably the most high profile free agent this summer, and the Jazz franchise player had to make a decision of where to land. As it transpired, he would choose to reunite with his college coach Brad Stevens in Boston. The move meant that the Celtics would need to trade away Avery Bradley’s contract while it looks as though they are keeping Jae Crowder, who plays at the same position as Hayward. It is unclear what the starting lineup for Boston will look like, but Hayward is almost definitely going to lose touches and shots with a better roster than what he had at Utah. His efficiency and assists may go up, but we don’t expect him to be better than what he was last year. Wait for the early-middle rounds to take him, although we may forgive you for reaching a little if you’re a true believer.
ADP: 97/82 (ESPN/Yahoo), Total Value: 140/144 (8/9 cat), Per-Game Value: 55/61 (8/9 cat), Games Played: 49
George Hill’s stats in 2016-17 made owners jump for joy, while his games played made them weep. He had a career-best year in terms of averages but had it cut short by a multitude of injuries throughout the season. He averaged a career high in points, but only suited up for just over half of the Jazz games mainly due to a sore thumb and a nagging sore toe that never seemed to go away. It was very disappointing to have a player sidelined for so long for what seemed to be relatively minor injuries, especially considering how effective Hill was when healthy.
He averaged 16.9 points, 4.2 assists, 3.4 rebounds, 1.0 steals, 0.2 blocks, 1.7 turnovers and 1.9 three-pointers while shooting 47.7 percent on field goals and 80.1 percent on free throws. That’s good for fifth-round value on a per game basis, but the lack of games meant he would finish just inside the top-150. High percentage shooting, coupled with decent steals are what makes Hill an attractive fantasy asset, as he embraces the 3-and-D label placed on him. However, he was much more aggressive on the offensive end in his ninth NBA season, averaging his most field goal attempts, 3-point attempts and free throw attempts on his way to a career high in scoring.
He is heading off to play in Sacramento for the Kings this upcoming season as a mentor for the young De’Aaron Fox. It’s unclear how much time the Kings will afford him as they look to develop their younger players, and there is still obvious injury risk with Hill. However, it shouldn’t be tough for him to be healthier this season compared to the last, and he’ll get the bulk of ball handling duties when the Kings are trying to win. Top-100 numbers are a safe floor, barring more tough injury luck. In saying that, a potential end-of-year youth movement might push him into the later-middle rounds.
ADP: N/A / N/A (ESPN/Yahoo), Total Value: 97/99 (8/9 cat), Per-Game Value: 141/144 (8/9 cat), Games Played: 82
In his third year in the league, Joe Ingles was able to break into the top-100 fantasy rankings. The swingman averaged just 24.0 minutes per game and only started 26 of them, but was an important floor spacer and facilitator for the Jazz. He was also the only player on the team to play all 82 games. He notched 7.1 points, 3.2 rebounds, 2.7 assists, 1.2 steals, 0.1 blocks, 1.3 turnovers and 1.5 triples for the season while sporting a 45.2 field goal percentage and hitting 73.5 percent of his freebies. His most impressive stat, however, was his 44.1 percent shooting from deep. He led the league in 3-point efficiency for large part of the season and finished in the top five of qualifying players for the category.
Towards the end of the year, Ingles found himself on many fantasy rosters after averaging 8.8 points, 4.0 rebounds, 4.0 assists and 2.0 triples in his last 20 games. His skills as a ball handler and passer made him popular as a pickup for teams looking to make a late push in assists. The strong finish to the season encouraged the Jazz to re-sign him, which they did for four more years. Ingles could easily be in the top-100 again this upcoming season with more opportunity to play with Gordon Hayward leaving for Boston. He’s worth a late round pick, especially if you are looking for out-of-position assists and need a boost in triples.
ADP: 119/141 (ESPN/Yahoo), Total Value: 183/175 (8/9 cat), Per-Game Value: 225/214 (8/9 cat), Games Played: 78
Joe Johnson started the season with a bang, scoring 29 points in his first game for the Jazz. Unfortunately, he couldn’t match that total for the rest of the season and averaged just 9.2 points, 3.1 rebounds, 1.8 assists, 0.5 steals, 0.2 blocks and 0.9 turnovers on 43.6 from the field and 81.1 from the line. His numbers have fallen off since his glory days in Atlanta where he averaged over 20 points a game and many believe the 16-year veteran is on his last legs.
Iso-Joe still showed up in the postseason to silence the haters with some clutch buckets to help take down the Clippers in the first round. He has one year left on his contract with the Jazz and will be a valuable presence to have around rookie Donovan Mitchell. You can leave him on the wire though, as it’s expected the hole left by Hayward will mostly be filled by Joe Ingles and Rodney Hood.
ADP: 112/104 (ESPN/Yahoo), Total Value: 203/205 (8/9 cat), Per-Game Value: 179/183 (8/9 cat), Games Played: 59
Rodney Hood, like George Hill, was another player on the Jazz roster plagued by injuries this past season. He suffered a bone bruise on his knee which kept him out for part of January, and the troubles lingered into February after Hood attempted to return early, forcing him to take additional time off. In the 59 games he played, he managed 12.7 points, 3.4 rebounds, 1.6 assists, 0.6 steals, 0.2 blocks, 1.1 turnovers and 1.9 triples while shooting 40.8 percent from the field and 78.3 percent from the line. All his numbers were down from the previous year, where Hood managed to finish in the top-75, and thus he was considered a bust this fantasy season.
He should be much better looking ahead and should benefit the most from Hayward’s departure. His scoring and floor spacing will be relied on heavily if the Jazz are to hang tough in the playoff picture. Look out for him in the later rounds of the draft, as he has some solid post-hype sleeper potential.
ADP: 46/33 (ESPN/Yahoo), Total Value: 229/226 (8/9 cat), Per-Game Value: 165/162 (8/9 cat), Games Played: 50
Speaking of busts, not many players crashed and burned as gloriously as Derrick Favors last year. The big man was drafted as early as the third round in 9-cat leagues, but would finish well outside the top-200. In 50 games, he averaged 9.5 points, 6.1 rebounds, 1.1 assists, 0.9 steals, 0.8 blocks, 1.2 turnovers and 0.1 triples on .487 shooting and a .615 mark from the free throw line. He only played 23.9 minutes per game due to injuries and coaching decisions, but his per-36 min numbers of 14.4 points, 9.3 rebounds, 1.4 steals and 1.2 blocks are quite impressive and much closer to his previous seasons in Utah.
There may be issues playing both Favors and Gobert together, as it seems a big man who can pass and space the floor is a more logical partner. In saying that, the Jazz sent Boris Diaw and Trey Lyles packing and may return to the Gobert-Favors combo we have seen in the past. That’s good news for Favors as he looks to bounce back to fantasy relevance, and there are worse guys to take a chance on in the late rounds.
ADP: 140/ N/A (ESPN/Yahoo), Total Value: 270/296 (8/9 cat), Per-Game Value: 247/292 (8/9 cat), Games Played: 55
Shelvin Mack served as the backup point guard for the Jazz, yet still only started nine games while George Hill sat out. He posted averages of 7.8 points, 2.3 rebounds, 2.8 assists, 0.8 steals, 0.1 blocks, 1.6 turnovers and 0.7 treys while shooting 44.6 percent from the field and 68.8 percent from the line. He missed the majority of the season after the All-Star break with an ankle injury, and finished deep down on the fantasy rankings.
Mack signed with the Magic this offseason, which will be his fifth team in the last seven years, but it will be difficult for him to carve out much of a role there as they currently have Elfrid Payton and D.J. Augustin eating all the point guard minutes. Don’t expect the return of the Mack anytime soon.
ADP: N/A /148 (ESPN/Yahoo), Total Value: 289/307 (8/9 cat), Per-Game Value: 329/355 (8/9 cat), Games Played: 66
The young Australian returned after missing the entire ’15-’16 season after tearing his ACL. He missed a handful of games this year as well with issues in his hip and knee, but for the most part was healthy. He averaged 6.2 points, 2.0 rebounds, 1.7 assists, 0.3 steals, 0.2 blocks, 1.2 turnovers and 0.7 triples while shooting 42.7 percent from the field and 79.5 percent from the line. He is going to have to improve on his 29.5 percent three-point shooting to be a legitimate offensive threat for the Jazz.
Exum still has a lot of potential, which was on display during the Summer League where he averaged 20.0 points on 52.4 percent shooting. The Jazz are likely looking to partner him up with Donovan Mitchell for the future, but for the time being it will be hard for him to get minutes off the recently signed Ricky Rubio. He’s only worth rostering in very deep leagues.
ADP: 140/140 (ESPN/Yahoo), Total Value: 291/299 (8/9 cat), Per-Game Value: 339/350 (8/9 cat), Games Played: 71
Trey Lyles had reasonable expectations in his second year as a supporting big to Derrick Favors and Boris Diaw. He was given opportunities early on to showcase his abilities while Favors sat out, but only started four games before returning to a bench role. In 71 games, he mustered 6.2 points, 3.3 rebounds, 1.0 assists, 0.4 steals, 0.3 blocks, 0.9 turnovers and 0.9 three-pointers in 16.3 minutes. Those numbers are pretty decent from a per-36 minute perspective, while his shooting percentages left much to be desired, with 36.2 from the field, 72.2 from the stripe and 31.9 from deep.
He was useful for a couple games when injuries decimated the Jazz roster, but he isn’t a consistent fantasy contributor. Lyles was traded to Denver where he faces a similar role on a team with a much faster pace. Wait and see how Lyles goes before touching him though, as the Nuggets currently have a lot of frontcourt depth.
ADP: 140/150 (ESPN/Yahoo), Total Value: 346/354 (8/9 cat), Per-Game Value: 344/353 (8/9 cat), Games Played: 42
The consistent theme of Jazz players this year was injuries, and none missed more games due to injury than Alec Burks. He was only able to play in 42 games this season after ankle surgery at the start of the season, bringing his grand total of games played in the last three years to 100 games. He notched 6.7 points, 2.9 rebounds, 0.7 assists, 0.4 steals, 0.1 blocks, 0.8 turnovers and 0.6 triples in 15.5 minutes per game. He shot 39.9 percent from the field and 76.9 percent from the line rounding off a rather forgettable campaign. He has the capability to be an effective bench scorer, and will look to return to better form this upcoming year. Burks may get a small bump in minutes and touches with Hayward gone, but currently isn’t worth a draft pick outside of ridiculously deep leagues.
Losing Hayward will be tough to swallow and leaves a considerable hole on the team. His journey east leaves his old team weaker while the West is stronger than ever, adding Paul Millsap, Paul George and Jimmy Butler during the summer. The Jazz also lost George Hill, Shelvin Mack, Trey Lyles and Boris Diaw; everything points towards a pivot and extra attention for developing young players like the exciting Donovan Mitchell, who Utah drafted with the 13th pick. However, they did trade a first round pick for the Spanish wizard Ricky Rubio, which was originally an effort to retain Hayward. New additions also include Jonas Jerebko and Thabo Sefolosha, though neither are expected to make much of a splash in Utah. The Jazz will be in a fight to make the postseason again, but they are underestimated almost every year and could surprise us again this year. Their defense should be able to hold up and keep them in most contests even if they lack scoring punch. It’ll be a transition year as the team recollects itself and begins to build around Gobert, but you can bet that Utah won’t take it easy on anyone.