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Gordon Hayward Takes Over The Downbeat - #539

[Note by Basketball John ] So since I still have some (all) player previews to do, I'm going to be using the DB for them.  Each number will represent something from the season for each player.  Up first, Gordon Hayward.

  Year one for Hayward was as tumultuous as the season was for the Jazz.  He wasn't expected to be a major contributor coming into the season despite being the #9 pick overall.  That's what happens when you're gifted to a winning team through an unprotected draft pick.

What a season it was though for the former Butler Bulldog.  What started out as boos and jeers when his name was announced ended up being cheers when the season ended.

He didn't play much to start the season.  For one, the team had established veterans that were trying to play with each other and mesh.  The team also got out to a fantastic start, allowing Hayward to come along and develop at a pace that other top-10 picks aren't usually afforded.  When he did get playing time, he struggled for the most part.  Deron Williams infamously chucked the ball at him when Hayward didn't cut to the basket on a fast break.  He didn't shoot too well and looked lost at times while learning the flex offense.  

His first break-out game was against the Clippers to end the year.  It was his fifth start of the season and easily his best outing.  In 43 minutes, he put up 17 points on 12 shots and added 3 assists and 6 rebounds. He still was tentative in taking shots, electing to defer to one of the other four on the floor when he had open looks.

As the season went along, he continued to improve and build his confidence.  He took a huge leap though after Deron Williams was traded to the Nets.  There was an obvious impact on his play after that point.  We all know about the chucked ball incident.  We don't know though what went on behind locker room doors though I don't believe there was any major or minor rift between the two.  There may not have even been an issue.

What likely caused the jump in confidence was the increase in playing time and his role with the team.  He took on more of the load after that point and even more when key players got injured.  Over the last 26 games, he only had one game where he did not play double-digit minutes.  Over the last 8 games, he didn't play less than 33 minutes.  He went back and forth between starter and reserve for a bit but was part of the starting five for five of the last six games.

That's when the season came to a cruel end for Hayward, the Jazz, and Jazz fans.  He was just beginning to show what he could do when he put up 22 on the Lakers, getting Utah's first win in LA in an eternity.  He closed out the season at home in fine fashion, dispatching the Nuggets with 34 points.

While the Jazz were long out of the playoff picture, it was an exciting time for the team as we got to see the birth of a new team develop.  One that will hopefully grow as a young core and return to the playoffs in a few years.  Hayward is going to be one of the faces of the franchise going forward.  Looking back at this time a year ago, who would have ever thought that?

  One of the questions going forward for Hayward will be what position does he play?  He's suited for either the two or the three.  Before the draft, I would have told you that the Jazz would work to move him to the shooting guard position and draft or trade for another wing.  Now, with the Jazz having drafted Alec Burks, it looks like Hayward will get most of his minutes as the small forward.  

Burks isn't going to come in and start right away, so Hayward will likely see plenty of playing time there.  After next season though, Gordon will still get some minutes at the two on rotations, but he's going to be manning the wing for the foreseeable future.

  Three-point shooting, and his shooting overall, was one of the biggest knocks on Hayward coming out of college.  He had decent numbers as a freshman, shooting 48% from the field and 45% from three, but he had a pretty big sophomore slump.  His shooting percentage dropped 15 points while he couldn't even crack 30% from college three.

He shot a respectable 36% from three the first five months of the season.  That was in large part due to December where he was 6/11 from deep.  However, in the AD era, he shot a blistering 54.5% on 44 attempts.

He ended up leading all rookies in three-point percentage (min. 70 attempts) and finished second in the leaguein three-point percentage among those with at least 70 attempts.

Here's to hoping that he doesn't have a sophomore slump.

  The Jazz have control over Hayward for at least four more years.  The last will be a qualifying offer.  Though I suspect that if he develops as expected, he'll get an extension that last year that should keep him in Utah for long past that.

Side note:  Look how empty that salary page looks.

  Give me your top 5 Gordon Hayward moments of the season.