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  • Nicholas Boylan

Utah Jazz Player Grades

Courtesy of AP Photo/David Zalubowski

After a slow start to the season, the Utah Jazz have regrouped to 6th in the Western Conference standings, with a 36-26 record. Particularly finding success in the new calendar year after a tough early schedule, the Jazz are back in the playoff race and looking to finish the season strong.

This inconsistent season has led to teammate grades that have soared and dipped like the basketball Utah has played through 2018-19, but with the All-Star weekend firmly in the rear-view mirror, these are the Utah Jazz grades as they stand.

Note: Tyler Cavanaugh, Naz Mitrou-Long and Tony Bradley were not graded due to their overall lack of playing time & games played

Rudy Gobert

While extremely unlucky to miss out on his first NBA All-Star selection, Gobert has had a career best season and has been Utah’s best performer. Overcoming a slow start like many of his teammates, whilst also adjusting to the NBA’s new defensive rules, Gobert has led the Jazz back to the 3rd best defensive rating in the NBA.

Averaging career highs in points per game (15.5), steals (0.9), rebounds (12.8), and also in field goal percentage (65.4 percent, which leads the NBA), Gobert has started to become a more well-rounded player. Averaging a career high 2.2 assists also, the reigning Defensive Player of the Year is having his greatest impact on both-ends, and deserves the highest grade of any Jazz player.

Grade: A

Donovan Mitchell

Mitchell is a hard one to assess, whether that’s marking him against his rookie campaign, the NBA or his teammates. Coming off a rookie season that many felt deserved the Rookie of the Year award over Ben Simmons, Mitchell’s sophomore campaign hasn’t seen the push to stardom that was envisaged.

Still averaging 22.9 points compared to his rookie number of 20.5 points per game, Mitchell has been forced to shoulder the load of a Jazz team that struggles on offense, and is lacking in consistent shot makers.

As a result, Mitchell’s efficiency at times has been difficult to watch, averaging a 42 percent mark from the field on the season, but got down to 38 percent during December.

Still lacking another offensive threat on the roster allows some levity on Mitchell’s grade, but Spida’s inconsistency in efficiency keeps the sophomore from achieving a higher mark.

Grade: B

Derrick Favors

Another tough player to grade, Favors is averaging a low 23.2 minutes per night, the same mark as his 2012-13 season in Utah, but having the best field goal percentage of his career at 57.4 percent.

Despite the longest-tenured veteran averaging solid numbers (11.2 points and 7.2 rebounds per game), the Jazz have been more successful with running smaller line-ups featuring Jae Crowder at the 4 instead of Favors.

With Favors’ contract non-guaranteed for next season, this is likely his last season in Salt Lake City, with the Gobert/Favors partnership simply not working in today’s NBA landscape.

Grade: B-

Joe Ingles

Slow-Mo Joe has had an inconsistent season, starting off scorching hot with a breakout performance against Golden State, before cooling off, especially from downtown to leave his season mark at 38 percent versus 44 percent from last year.

Ingles and his wife Renae revealed on February 14th that their 2-year old son Jacob had been diagnosed with autism, and the powerful must-read piece looks to have provided Ingles with a refreshed mind. Shooting 51 percent from 3-point range in Utah’s 7 games in February, Ingles’ hot shooting is integral to the Jazz, with his all-around play usually leading to a Jazz win.

Able to run pick-and-rolls, take the opponent’s best offensive player and be a threat from downtown, Ingles’ play going forward is integral in the Jazz finishing the season strongly.

Grade: B-

Sporting News

Ricky Rubio

After finishing last season on fire, Utah fans were simply expecting more from Rubio this season, but sadly haven’t seen it enough on a consistent basis.

Still a solid facilitator with 6.1 assists per game and contributing 13.3 points per game, Rubio’s inefficient shooting can be a maddening sight for Jazz fans. Particularly when sharing the court with Mitchell, the sophomore will use his athleticism and explosiveness to drive and kick to options like Rubio, who misses open range 3-pointers with regularity, only converting from range at almost 33 percent.

If Rubio can have his regular post-All-Star break form, then this grade will likely be radically different. Already in February, Rubio is averaging 16 points and 6 assists, on 48 percent shooting from the floor and 32 percent from 3-point range.

If that form continues and improves similar to last season’s late run, the soon to be free agent could play his way into a solid new contract for the Jazz.

Grade: C-

Jae Crowder

Crowder’s first full season in Utah has seen the forward emerge as an efficient partner for Gobert as a small-ball power forward. Crowder’s defensive versatility and 34 percent shooting mark has been key for the sixth man, averaging 27.6 minutes and typically being in coach Quin Snyder’s closing line-ups.

One of the better role players in the NBA, Crowder is a part of 4 of the best 5 Utah lineups that have played at least 40 minutes, in terms of Net Rating. Contributing seven 20+ point games from off the bench, Crowder has been a solid offensive threat on a roster that lacks a large amount of such players.

Grade: B

Royce O’Neale

Another Jazz player with a slow start to the season, O’Neale has quickly become an important player in Utah, particularly showing this when inserted into the starting line-up.

In nine games partnering Mitchell in the back court, O’Neale averaged 9.2 points, 2 assists, 5.3 rebounds and an impressive 43 percent shooting mark from 3-point range. In February alone, O’Neale has been averaging a scorching 55 percent mark from long-range, whilst still displaying the defensive acumen that saw him start last season’s Western Conference Semifinal series against the Houston Rockets.

With O’Neale taking the floor, Utah has a defensive rating of 100.9, versus 105.2 when he sits, showcasing his progression to a reliable 3-and-D wing. Another Jazz member who started the season slowly and another who has found form in 2019, O’Neale’s versatility and ability to knock down open shots could find coach Snyder continuing to give him minutes.

Grade: B

Dante Exum

After a contract that raised eyebrows, Exum has made some positive steps towards justifying the Jazz front office faith. A strong December in particular had Jazz fans excited that Exum had finally turned the corner with his defense, explosive first step and some improved efficiency on the offensive end showing serious promise.

However, Exum has been sidelined since spraining his right ankle in a January 5th encounter in Detroit, suffering a bone bruise to go with the sprain, causing the Australian guard to have a much longer time out than initially thought.

Utah has to hope the Australian can return and continue his pre-injury form heading into the playoffs.

Grade: C+

Kyle Korver

The only addition to the Jazz roster that occurred during the season, Korver’s return to Utah has been a welcome addition to a roster lacking consistent threats from 3-point range.

Korver has averaged 9.1 points on 39 percent shooting in 19.5 minutes per night, contributing double-digit scoring efforts in 20 of his 54 games for the Jazz.

Giving Mitchell another knock-down shooter to kick out to on drives has been a shrewd move for the Jazz, with Korver looking to be an important player in the playoffs for Utah.

Grade: B

USA Today

Raul Neto

The point guard position has fluctuated throughout the season in Utah, but when Neto has played, he has been the definition of solid and reliable when running the offense.

Averaging 4.9 points and 2.3 assists in 12 minutes per night is nothing that jumps off the page, but Neto having the third-highest box plus-minus on the Jazz roster, trailing only Ingles and Gobert, is.

Adding to that steady and reliable tag is Neto’s assist-to-turnover ratio being the highest on the team, showing that Neto is perfect in an injury crisis and a luxury third-point guard other teams wished they had.

Grade: B

Thabo Sefolosha

The 34-year old veteran has only managed 30 games this season but is still a versatile defender who is shooting 45 percent from 3-point range, albeit on 1 attempt per game.

Recently coming back from a hamstring injury, Sefolosha may not see many minutes when coach Snyder shrinks his rotation if Utah make the playoffs, only playing 10.4 minutes a night currently.

The one thing in Sefolosha’s favor is that the wing depth on the Jazz is lacking, with Crowder the only reliable option, and the other contributors Grayson Allen and Georges Niang still at early stages in their careers.

Sefolosha’s playoff experience in Oklahoma City and Atlanta could hold him in good stead when given the chance in a postseason push.

Georges Niang

Taking advantage of Sefolosha’s early absence, Niang started the season strongly, highlighted by a 13- point effort against the Dallas Mavericks, on 4 of 5 shooting and 2 from 3 from 3-point range. Averaging 5.3 points through October, Niang has showed promise despite only playing 7.4 minutes a night.

With Sefolosha hitting free agency at the end of this season, Niang could be set for more minutes next year to showcase his growth.

Grade: C+

Grayson Allen

A disappointing rookie campaign for Utah’s 21st pick, Allen has only managed to log 29 games of action and hasn’t shown consistent stretches of two-way play.

The former Blue Devil had his best performance back at the end of October against the Mavericks, where he went for 11 points on a perfect shooting night, but hasn’t done enough to show coach Snyder he’s warranting regular rotation minutes.

Allen has shown signs in the G-League, but his defense will need to improve to coach Snyder’s high expectations, if he wants more regular appearances.

Ekpe Udoh

Aside from young Jazz members Tony Bradley and Tyler Cavanagh, Udoh is the only other frontcourt reserve available for coach Snyder, though he doesn’t feature prominently.

The 31-year old only averages 5.5 minutes per night and has played a mere 35 games this season, only being called upon if Gobert or Favors have been unavailable.

Averaging 1.9 points and 0.8 rebounds, Udoh doesn’t feature in coach Snyder’s plans in this season.

Grade: C-

All statistics courtesy of Basketball Reference and Official NBA Stats

#NBA #Jazz #NicholasBoylan

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