Coach K is not known for accepting many transfers. The ones he has accepted have been notable. Intuitively, this makes sense. If Coach K believes there is a cost to accepting a transfer student that is not bore by a similar high school player, the transfer player will have to make up for that premium with talent. When Duke accepts a transfer, we should expect that player to be valuable enough to make up for the cost of accepting him.
With that said, we have Rodney Hood. I feel like I know that he will be a lottery pick someday, and yet I have never seen him play. I’ve been told that he was the best player on the roster last year. I’ve heard that he is going to be the second pick in the draft, high praise for any player, let alone one who transferred to Duke after one year at Mississippi State. Normally, I am not comfortable judging a player I have never seen before. It’s the same problem I have forecasting incoming freshmen. Fortunately, Rodney Hood is not a freshman, and we have a year’s worth of information to work with.
Honestly, the numbers paint a muddled picture of Hood’s freshman year. Unlike Quinn Cook, Hood was on the court a lot, averaging 32.8 MPG over 32 games, so this is not an issue of having no information. We don’t have a ton of data, but we have some. Hood took 129 three pointers, making 47 (36.4%). Hood took 158 other shots, making 80 (50.6%). He shot 65.9% from the free throw line but only took 41 free throws. For the season, Hood’s offensive rating was 114.5 (meaning 1.145 points per possession), and defensive rating was 105.6. Finally, his usage rate (the percentage of possessions he “used”) was only 16.8%. By comparison, Rasheed Sulaimon’s usage rate was 20.8% last season.
The first thing that stands out to me is that he did not shoot well from three. 36.4% is just not good enough for a wing player on a Final 4 contending team. On the other hand, he shot nearly 51% on all other shots. For a player that does not play primarily in the post, that is pretty impressive. Next, his FT % was terrible, but he only had 41 opportunities. These three puzzle pieces do not fit together nicely. Somehow, Hood shot 51% on 158 shots from inside the arc but only took 41 free throws.
A little quick math shows that Hood’s ratio of 2 PT field goals to free throws taken was 3.85. It took Hood nearly 4 field goals to attempt a single free throw. By comparison, it took Rasheed Sulaimon only 1.65 field goals to attempt a single free throw. Even assuming that Hood is a true 80% from the line, he will need to improve that ratio going forward. Additionally, you would think that a player who shoots 51% from inside the arc would be taking a lot of shots in the paint. If this is true of Hood, then he was not drawing enough contact to get to the line. If Hood was taking shots outside the paint, then the numbers suggest an excellent mid range game.
Overall, Hood had a strong season offensively, while using only 16.8% of his team’s possessions. In general, offensive ratings tend to fall as usage rate goes up, so his O rating of 114.5 might fall with an increased role (imagine what would happen if Tyson Chandler played a larger role in the Knicks’s offense). However, we all expect significant improvement from him, so it might not be a stretch to think that he can maintain or improve his O rating this coming season. If Hood can boost his 3PT % to around 40% and get to the line more often while maintaining his performance from inside the arc, Hood may very well be an All-American level offensive player. Given what we’ve heard about, this does not seem outlandish to me.
Unfortunately, his defensive performance his freshman year was significantly more disappointing. His defensive rating of 105.6 was flat out bad. That number does not tell us whom he was guarding. Neither does it tell us what his role was on his Miss St. team. Perhaps, he was an overmatched freshman guarding the best wings in the SEC. However, 105.6 is 105.6. It’s hard to sugarcoat that. Frankly, without improvement, Hood could be a defensive liability for Duke. Fortunately, there is reason to be optimistic about Hood’s defensive future. By all accounts, he is athletic and has good court awareness. With some Coach K training, we should expect his D rating to drop into the much more acceptable 98 to 102 to range.
Expectations about Hood’s first season in Duke blue are mostly grounded in speculation. His freshman stats do not necessarily paint the picture of a future lottery pick. He had a relatively strong offensive season, while using few of his team’s possessions. Defensively, he struggled. However, his freshman year stats do not mean that expectations about him are wrong. If he is as athletic and smart as we’ve been told, he may very well last only 1 season in Durham. An O rating of 115 and a D rating of 100 will put him in the 1st Team All ACC conversation. If he is to be more than that, then he will have performed at a level far greater than that of his freshman season.