If I had a dime for every time I've seen or heard a Jazz fan complain about the Jazz passing on Paul George in the 2010 draft, I would be able to pay for a lower bowl seat to a Jazz game. I think the clamor from Jazz fans has been for a few reasons:
1. It's easy to love a player that you only see highlights of and harder to love your own player who you watch 3 times a week, warts and all.
2. Paul George was just named to the All-Star team. I mean, he's an All-star. Hayward is a 6th man.
3. Gordon Hayward can't do this:
I am the president of the "circumstance over talent" club, which is a club I just made up comprised of NBA fans who see the difference between a player who is truly better at basketball and a player who just has a better opportunity to put up numbers or succeed. And with Gordon Hayward and Paul George, I think most Jazz fans believe George is a little or much better than Hayward, but I am not so convinced.
Before I show you some numbers, i must explain that I am not a huge fan of the way Per-36 minutes numbers are often used. If you are using them to show why a guy who plays 12 minutes and scores 8 points would average 24 points if given 36 minutes, that is probably a misuse of the stat. But if you are trying to standardize stats for two different players who play different amounts of minutes, but both play close to 36 minutes against top competition for most of the game, I think it's a useful tool. With that in mind, here are the Per 36 minute numbers for Hayward and George.
Which player is better? The top player is a significantly better rebounder and slightly better assist getter. But the bottom player is better in almost every other category. More points, less turnovers, better shooting from the field, the 3 point line and the free throw line. And the bottom player gets to the free throw line at a much better rate. The bottom player is Gordon Hayward and the top player is Paul George. To me, the big difference is that George is a much better rebounder and plays 11 more minutes per game. Other than that, Hayward is better at almost everything.
There are a couple things I think are important to this data. First, look at how Hayward's usage percentage has steadily climbed during his career. Part of this is due to is coming off the bench, but he actually has the ball in his hands as much as Paul George does, almost to the decimal point. And the fact that Hayward has increased his usage by a large amount, AND has cut his turnovers down, is super encouraging.
Secondly, I think every Jazz fan has lamented Hayward's turnover problems, but he actually turns the ball at a lower rate than George does. In fact if you look at synergy, which is a pretty good way to document the way a player uses offensive possessions, you will see that Hayward is really George's equal.
Hayward averages 0.94 points per possession to George's 0.9. George is a slightly better isolation scorer, but when both are put in pick n roll situations, George turns the ball over 22.5% of the time to Hayward's 24% of the time. So while there is a ton of room for improvement for Hayward on pick n rolls, he isn't lagging far behind George, although both are significantly behind contemporaries like John Wall, Evan Turner or even Kyrie Irving, players who use up to 30% of their possessions in pick n roll situations, while keeping their turnover percentages down around 17%. But Turner has several of his own limitations and Irving might be the best player in the NBA in 6 years.
So the next time you hear a Jazz fan lament at the fact that the Jazz drafted Gordon Hayward instead of Paul George, just tell them that Hayward is as productive as George is, if not even more.