Who is Brandon Rush?

Photo: Melissa MajchrzakPhoto: Melissa Majchrzak

There are many new faces on the Jazz this season, with some seeing very little action so far this season.

The average Jazz fan probably couldn’t tell you two facts about the likes of Ian Clark, Rudy Gobert, Andris Biedrins, Richard Jefferson or Brandon Rush.  Heralded rookie Trey Burke is still a mystery to fans as well.

Besides Burke, the player that sparked the most interest amongst fans is Rush.

Brandon Rush is one of the players that came over in the trade with Golden State. Rush played his college ball for the Kansas Jayhawks, and put up some very impressive numbers in Big-12 conference action. As a freshman in 2007, Rush posted 13.5 points, 5.9 rebounds, and a stellar 47.2% mark from downtown per game. Rush was the first freshman to ever be elected to the All Big-12 First Team, until a certain Kevin Durant did it the following year at Texas.

In 2008 Rush won a national title with the Jayhawks, earning earning MVP honors in the Big-12 conference tournament. Rush averaged 15.8 points per game during Kansas’ run to a title. He then entered the NBA draft and was selected 13th overall by the Portland Trailblazers. He was traded on draft night to the Indiana Pacers, along with Jarret Jack and Josh McRoberts, for Jerryd Bayless and Ike Diogu. Rush wasn’t in Indiana long as he was traded after two seasons to the Warriors for Lou Amundson.

Golden State liked Rush enough to re-sign him in August of 2012, but then he tore the ACL in his left knee during the second game of the 2012-13 season and didn’t play again for the Warriors.

Rush seems like one of those college players who had a lot of potential going into the NBA, but just struggled trying to apply his ability to score to defenses that are much faster and smarter than at the collegiate level.

He is still mostly an unknown to Jazz fans.

He’s been sidelined through training camp and preseason while recovering from the ACL injury, and made his debut in a Jazz uniform against the Brooklyn Nets this week.  He didn’t attempt a single shot while picking up two fouls and committing two turnovers in 9:46 of action. Rush didn’t play Wednesday against the Celtics.

So what made Utah general manager Dennis Lindsey agree to accept Rush in the trade that also brought Richard Jefferson and Andris Biedrins to Salt Lake City? Well, on his career, Rush averages 9 points, 1.1 assists, and 3.6 rebounds in 26.7 minutes per game. While that’s not an overly impressive stat line, Rush does average 41.3% from behind the three-point line in his career. Considering his percentage in college, it’s not too much of a surprise that that aspect of his game translated to the NBA. Utah was the eighth best team in three-point percentage last year, but they did attempt the 28th fewest amount of deep shots. So bringing in a player with a high percentage like Rush seems like a good way to help bolster Utah’s three-point shooting.  While Jefferson and Biedrins were mostly a salary dump for Golden State (Jefferson and Biedrins will combine to make $19.16 million this season) Rush came at far more modest price of $4 million; he’s in year two of his 2 year, 8$ million dollar deal he signed with Golden State last August.  Rush could actually end up sticking around Salt Lake City for a few more years, in a Shane Battier or Mike Miller kind of way.

Rush actually would have fit very well with last year’s offense, even though he wasn’t healthy. Last season saw Utah kicking the ball from a double-teamed Al Jefferson in the post to perimeter guys like Randy Foye and Mo Williams for three point attempts. While Foye shot his second-best three point percentage of his career while in Utah, at 41.0%, he’s still only a 37.6% three point shooter on his career. Williams shot 38.3% from behind the arc last season for the Jazz, and 38.5% on his career. While Williams and Foye weren’t the only two players benefiting from the wide open perimeter looks given to them by opposing teams (due to the double-teams Jefferson demanded in the post) they did account for 8.6 of Utah’s 16.9 attempts from deep last season.

With Foye and Williams accounting for nearly half of Utah’s three-pointers attempted last season, having a shooter such as Rush will hopefully breathe some life into the Jazz’s still poor outside shooting. Currently, the Jazz are the worst shooting team in the NBA from behind the arc, at 22.5%. While Rush may not exactly have a huge impact, he can help up that mark considerably once he assimilates himself back into the NBA game.

The hardest part of that for Rush will be working himself into a lineup. While coach Tyrone Corbin is still fiddling with his lineups (undrafted rookie Ian Clark played big minutes during Utah’s failed 4th-quarter rally in Boston on Tuesday) Rush is going to have to prove that deserves minutes on the court.

While Rush could potentially see some time in the starting lineup instead of fellow forward Jefferson, I think he’d be most effective coming off the bench. With Alec Burks being the go-to guy in the second unit, Rush could be a huge help to Burks in a number of ways. Having Rush on the court gives Burks another shooter besides himself to pass to, as well as a bigger man to set screens and free other players for open shots.

It’ll be interesting to see how Corbin decides to utilize Rush once he is back and contributing at his usual level in games.

Spencer Durrant is an avid sports fan and fisherman. He’s a lover of classic rock and Sundays filled with football. You can find him on Twitter, @Spencer_Durrant
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