Jazz Guard Gordon Hayward is an existential riddle

Howard Smith-US PRESSWIRE

Gordon Hayward is #4 on the Utah Jazz total minutes played rank so far after 41 games and he comes next. Gordon is a lot harder to quantify because he exists all over the map, or doesn't exist at all. It was clearly seen that Al Jefferson comes up big in the third quarter, that Paul Millsap has a more refined face up game, and that Randy Foye is really good at threes. What has Hayward done this season that he's *really good at* or otherwise is remarkable for?

This season he's hit game winners, and made game saving chase down blocks. He's also gone through single games where he's shot 9/17, and then four game stretches where he shoots a TOTAL of 7/22. He's made some good passes and some bad passes. He's made some good turn overs and some bad turn overs. He's stepped up to the plate on defense, and other times, looked like he was sleep walking on offense without the ball ever touching his hands. Gordon Hayward is hard to figure out, and hard to pin down, because within Hayward there is so much variety. He's not terribly consistent (and yes, he's only 22 -- so this is not a concern I have at all), and what you get with Hayward right now is a data range. On any given night this season we've seen Hayward be either exceptional or forgettable. While the data skews towards the good side, it's still a large range.

Gordon Hayward just is.

Or more reasonably, what Hayward is happens to be more a question of what Hayward does, than what parts make up Hayward. Starting with a gaggle of shoot first veterans as the 4th or 5th option? Hayward is a ghost on offense, and the only time we see him touch the ball is when he plays defense. (I've seen this movie before when it was called "1001 Andrei Kirilenko nights") When he's placed on the floor with a better than average chance to do something with the ball he flourishes.

This season Gordon has career highs in PER, USG%, and Points per Game. He goes to the line 4.1 times a game, and his TOV% is at a career low. Gobble-dee-gook aside what does this mean? It means that he's playing great basketball even if the national media doesn't know about it because he continues to come off the bench behind people he's better than. How good has Gordon been over his young career?

Well, here's the complete list of players (from 2001-2002 till now) who are 6'9 and shorter, who by the age of 23 have at least:

  • played in 4,300 total minutes
  • scored 1,700 total points
  • gotten 485 total rebounds
  • dished out 375 assists
  • made 100 threes
  • have 100 steals
  • and 80 blocks
  • while shooting 45 fg%

LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony, Kevin Durant, Rudy Gay, Derrick Rose, Andrei Kirilenko, and Gordon Hayward. And Hayward did it one year earlier that most of the guys on that list. (N.B. There are a group of players who made it for most of those categories but missed out on a few, and they were Josh Smith, Paul George, Nicolas Batum, Luol Deng, Tyreke Evans, John Wall, and Russell Westbrook to name a few.) Does that mean that Gordon is in the same category as all of these players? Well, at the tender age of 22 -- yes. By the numbers he is. Indubitably so if he was also put out there on the floor with a chance to touch the ball.

Hayward doesn't blow people away like he's capable of because he ends up playing with a bunch of people who also need the ball in their hands to be useful. In the situations and lineups where he can be himself -- he looks like a Top 5 lotto pick, and not a Top 10 pick. And we've seen that this season. While I did give out a stat block about where he is for his career -- and not this specific season -- I think it's the big picture that matters most when trying to evaluate Gordon. He was drafted and the then General Manager Kevin O'Connor told the media to wait till after 2 or 3 seasons before passing judgement on Hayward. O'Connor is correct here, because after this season is over a lot of other teams are going to call to inquire about the former Butler Bulldog.

His cumulative numbers put him in the class of guys who all handle the ball a lot more. Just imagine how much more demonstrative and productive Gordon would be if he was put into a situation to thrive -- and not be a square peg being thrust wildly into a round hole? Gordon has come alive this season when the ball in his hands, and while he's not thriving, he's making a living as a part of one of the best second units in the game today. A huge part of that is Gordon's play as the point forward.

If you were to be upset at him for anything (other than his shot which isn't as consistent as a 30 year old's shot just yet -- sorry fans) it would be that he's too willing to share. Hopefully that behavior pattern can be extinguished in the next few months. I'm not saying he has to adopt the Kobe Bryant system . . . but be more aware that if he's the best player on the floor, he should have the ball in his hands. (Even if he's not the oldest player on the floor)

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Gordon Hayward's season so far:

Gordon's minutes have dipped a bit since ... welllll ... since certain roster moves have been made. He was averaging over 30 MPG last year and is down to 26.6 this year. That's not the end of the world, what Tyrone Corbin has been trying to do is get a more concentrated Hayward. More of what he's good at, in less minutes. Across the board he's right "there" where he usually is in terms of rebounds, assists, steals, blocks, and his percentages. He's getting to the line like a half-Malone (which is a lot for a wing player), and scoring at a high rate. Per 36 he's an 18 / 4 / 3 / 1 / 1 player who makes 2 threes a game and 6 FTA. So why aren't we playing him 36 minutes a game again?

Gordon is a riddle depending only on if you yourself do not know how to use him correctly. But because the powers that be seem to, he thus is an existential riddle.

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