Look at that face. Would you just take two seconds and LOOK AT THAT FACE! Would you ever do anything to offend that boy? Sadly, chances are you already have. And if marriage has taught me anything, it's to not bury past offenses and hope they go away. They need to see daylight. THIS is your chance to make amends for the past. You owe it to yourself. You owe it to Gordy.
Let me refresh your memory. On June 24, 2010, the Jazz were finally able to cash in on the fabled "Knick's Pick." Year's of fantasizing about the value of a first round pick from the abyssal Knicks certainly had our mouths watering. But when the Knicks finished higher than expected, the possibility of landing a "franchise" player was all but lost. Yet, our expectations and hopes as fans, however unrealistic, still remained. And then it happened.
Momentarily silenced, we watched as our stratospheric expectations nose dived at terminal velocity. Visions of the next Dwayne Wade running down the court with a Jazz note striped across his chest were replaced with a face that looked like it belongs on the Andy Griffith Show. The first reaction on the draft night thread was a simple "Huh?!". But soon after the dam broke.
"You gotta be SH****** me"
"What a waste of a pick"
"Laughably idiotic pick"
"White guy. Predictable"
"O'Connor is a moron. It's official"
"There better be something else in the works"
"I am very angry"
"This is what we get with the Knicks Pick? This is it?"
"(hanging my head in depression)"
"5 years! For this guy. Lol This really is sad."
"Wow I wish we got george"
"George > Hayward"
"D***. Now I'm depressed"
"This is a terrible pick!!"
"I'd have preferred Babbitt to Hayward"
"Hopefully there's a trade coming"
"I would have taken Babbitt instead of Hayward this is a COME ON MAAAAAAN MOMENT RIGHT HERE"
The reaction on SLCDUNK.com was hardly unique. "[B]oos...rained down" at Energy Solutions Arena, and similar sentiments sprung from the embittered hearts of Jazz fans across the globe . In short, Hayward wasn't what we wanted or thought we needed.
And there standing innocently in the middle of this Jazz Fan / Jazz Management conflict was Gordon Hayward. Happy to get his start. Happy to have his family and his sweetheart by his side when it happened. Though a night's rest tempered our disappointment to a degree, the morning after only 7% of SLCDUNK.com readers felt Hayward was the best player available. In other words, only 7% of us gave Hayward the welcome he deserved.
"Wait, hold up. That's it?!" you're thinking. "That's the slight, the snub, the slap? This is what I'm apologizing for? Why grovel at his feet, let the boy prove himself! Couldn't 93% of us still be dead right?"
Perhaps. But as we'll see, the odds of that aren't good.
Gordy Is A Man And He Will Silence You
Nothing on the surface is striking about Gordon Hayward. He's skinny, he's white (yeah, I said it), and he's a "deep threat" that only shot 29.4% from the three point line last season for Butler. Comparing him, at least superficially, to other wings drafted after him certainly doesn't help either. Hayward's wingspan is 3.5" shorter than Paul George's and his vertical leap is 3" less than Luke Babbitt's. Babbitt performed better in the shooting drills at the NBA Draft Combine, and both Babbitt and George outscored Hayward in college. Further, highlight searches for either Babbitt or George yield countless high octane dunks, blocks, and other testosterone drenched man-child feats. Similar searches for Hayward, however, only confirm that his range doesn't extend to half court in title games. So why all the fuss? Prepare to have your mind blown, Mayberry style.
Hayward averaged fewer points than Babbitt, George, John Wall or DeMarcus cousins in this years summer league. But I submit that he was still the best scorer out of the bunch.
Hang with me for a second. While there's something to be said for game totals, they hardly tell the whole story. For instance, it's critically important to look at how many minutes each player played and how often they handled the ball.
Of the 5 players here examined, Hayward had by far the fewest minutes and possessions. Adjusting totals for 40 minutes of play brings my point home.
Hayward has the second highest point total per 40 minutes of play. And while George and Cousins were within a point of Hayward, they needed an extra 12.22 and 15.22 possessions respectively to do it! (YES THOSE NUMBERS ARE CORRECT!) Now that's efficiency Mr. Hayward!
Further, Hayward also had the second highest number of free throw attempts with 10.66 per 40 minutes of play, converting on 92.9%! While John Wall had a superior 14.57 attempts per 40, he needed an extra 25.90 possessions to get there. (again, this statistic is correct!) So not only is Hayward scoring efficiently, he's beating defenders while he's at it.
Now the astute among you will have noted by now that a higher percentage of Wall's possessions go to assists for which he shoots no free throws and makes no points. To account for this I have calculated the Percentage of Possessions with a Score ("PPS"). (i.e. What percent of a player's possessions end with that player making a basket, getting to the free throw line, or assisting another player. This does not account for times the player handled the ball, passed it to another player, and no assist took place). The results may surprise you.
Comparing Hayward's 2010 Summer League Statistics to players of note from the 2009-2010 season, we get a feel for just how impressive Haywards efficiency was this summer. Even accounting for Wall's superior assist totals, it is clear that Hayward was still by far the more efficient player.
At only 20 years old, Hayward has demonstrated an impressive understanding of basketball. Jerry Sloan noted that Hayward is a "very smart guy," and even went on to say "[h]e's got everything." (When Sloan gives praise like this pay attention).
Part of Hayward's basketball IQ comes in the form of restraint. I clearly remember one Sunday when I was about 10 years old, my mom leaning down during one of the hymns and tactfully encouraging me to "try to blend in." She knew, that despite my enthusiasm, I wasn't ready to sing a solo. Unlike my 10 year old self, Hayward has demonstrated a remarkable ability to know his part, his role within an offense. Hayward went to the free throw line at a remarkable rate this summer and shot 72% inside the arc on limited possessions. Contrast that to Paul George's 3 for 26 from beyond the arc during Summer League Play. If you are Kevin O'Connor picking at number 9 who do you pick to fit into the system? Who would you put in your choir?
Am I excited about these numbers? YES! Am I an idiot? I hope not. To be clear, I would NOT take Gordon Hayward over DeMarcus Cousins or John Wall. Further, the jury is still out on whether Hayward will be a better player than George or Babbitt. All of the above statistics are based off summer league totals and and great caution must be taken when placing weight on them--in summer league the play is sloppy, the competition is suspect, players can't foul out, and it's not about team play. So why am I excited about these numbers? I believe Hayward's numbers are more impressive BECAUSE it was summer league play. I don't think Hayward will approach anything near this efficiency in the NBA, but doing this on a summer league team with no experience playing with his teammates evidences that Hayward has something special.
Hayward has a quiet confidence. He's intelligent. He doesn't play with a sense of entitlement or with great ostentation. He's a Jazz man. And he is a 20 year old millionaire that just bought a Honda Accord.
Now, I could have waited till after preseason play to publish this piece, or even a few months into the season, but I don't think it would have changed the message. And what message is that?
Clear the air with Gordy. Believe in Gordy. Otherwise you will be just another one of the many critics he will silence.
And so with that, let me be the first. Gordon Hayward, I am sorry
I forgot to give a special thanks to @allthatamar. His statistical summary below is what inspired me to delve deeper into this in the first place!