Greetings again SLCDunkers,
Apologies for the long wait for this entry, I've been swamped with work and school this past week.
Today we have reached the 2nd best Jazz player in this upcoming season by my rankings. But first, here's a list of who's made my top 10 list so far:
Now today's entry may very well be the most controversial placing out of my whole top 10. So far, not 1 player in the top 10 has been called overrated by the majority in any of the polls, we'll see if that changes today.
We can talk more about this later in the comments, but today's player I see as being arguably anywhere from the 1st to 3rd best player on the Jazz for next season. After considering all the other players on the Jazz roster, I decided that the #2 spot should go to the Precious, Too Big Yo, Olive......
#2. Gordon Hayward, 5th season, 24 years old, 6'8", 220 pounds, SF/SG
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Gordon Hayward: the most talked about Jazz player this offseason.
He has had quite the momentous offseason as well, getting hitched long-term with both his new wife and the Jazz.
Most, if not all, of us are very familiar with how free agency sorted out this year with Hayward. Jazz camp wouldn't budge above $12 million per year, Agent/Hayward wanted more, Cavs may have offered him the max, Hornets actually did offer him the max, he signed, the Jazz matched. Now he'll be our highest paid player. Okay, with that out of the way now, let's bring it back to Hayward's early days.
Hayward played for the small school Butler University that has only had a handful of NBA players come out of its school in its history.
He only played there for 2 seasons, In his freshman year, he was 1 of the 3 threats on their team along with Shelvin Mack and Matt Howard. In his sophomore season, he began to stand out as the team's best player, averaging the most points, rebounds, PER, WS, and WS/48. He averaged 15.5 points, 8.2 rebounds, and 1.7 assists off of 46.4 FG%, with a 24.3 PER. Very solid numbers to be sure. He then infamously missed a shot at the buzzer in the NCAA Championship game against Duke that would have been an ultimate ending to a cinderella story.
He then fell right into the Jazz's lap on draft night in 2010, getting drafted 9th overall, with players like Evan Turner, Wesley Johnson, Ekpe Udoh, Al-Farouq Aminu all getting drafted over him. Other Jazz players in this draft are 3rd pick Derrick Favors, 23rd pick Trevor Booker, and 55th pick Jeremy Evans.
He then began his journey for the Jazz, being the only 1 of the core 4, in my opinion, to receive proper developmental minutes through his rookie contract seasons so far. This led him to being our primary offensive option last season where he averaged a solid 16 points, 5 rebounds, 5 assists, 1.4 steals, and 0.5 blocks, off of a mediocre 41 FG%, 30 3P%, 82 FT%.
Losing Big Al and Millsap definitely hurt Hayward quite a bit. Teams were not giving him space anymore and thus he no longer had that same comfort zone on offense that he enjoyed in previous seasons.
I've heard time and again that had he shot at the same percentages last season as he did the season before, many people would stop complaining about the large contract Hayward received. I'm not buying it. If Hayward did have the same shooting averages as the season before, guess how many more points he would have averaged? anyone? a whopping 1.1 points. Would have boosted his scoring average from 16.2 to 17.3 points per game. Is that really worth griping about?
Anyways, I was very impressed by the jump in his assists, rebounds, and steals last season, and hope his shooting bounces back this season in a new system with new hope.
What to Expect This Season:
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Hayward comes in at 2nd today, not for having the most potential on the team, but for being 1 of the most likely to produce at a high level on a consistent basis this season, at least on the offensive end. He is currently the player on the Jazz that defenses are focused on. This is not to be taken for granted.
If Hayward goes down for an extended period of time this season, expect the team to struggle with defenses being able to center in on our other offensive options. Luckily Hayward, has not had any major injuries thus far in his career, and has yet to miss more than 10 games in a season.
Hopefully we shall see Hayward make some improvements this year, as many players have notoriously subpar years in cases of their first season being the primary option.
I would expect to see Hayward slotted back as the team's starting small forward this season since there are no longer MVP level players such as Richard Jefferson that are keeping Hayward and other players on the roster from playing where they have traditionally played.
Expect either Hayward's shooting numbers to improve this season or for the Jazz to be in the running for the first pick in the 2015 draft. If Hayward's shots are not falling, I do not see the Jazz having much success this year. However, if he's clicking on all cylinders, this will allow for the rest of the team to flourish as well, as I think spacing the floor and making defenses pay were certain elements that were not present in the Jazz's playing schemes last season.
With all of this said, here is my prediction for how Hayward will do this season:
Like I said in Burks' entry last week, I foresee that both Burks and Hayward will be neck-in-neck in being the team's highest scorer this season. But, with Hayward being a jack-of-all-trades swiss-army-knife on the floor, this left me to decide that he would have a larger impact on the floor this season.
I also anticipate a slight dip in assists and rebounds as the increased roles of Burke, Burks, Exum, and Kanter will lead to less of these stats to go around. (Kanter will be grabbing rebounds that Marvin would not have, Burke/Burks may improve their assist numbers with Exum also being likely to do better than our backup point guards from last season in ball distribution, thus leading to a slight dip in Hayward's facilitating responsibilities).
Hayward will probably get some flack from people for being overpaid, but his agent and him played the market and won, so that's that. So long that Hayward continues to outplay Parsons (who got a similar contract in Dallas), I see no reason to be down on Gordon. It should be known that the Jazz must pay the free agent tax, as we are currently not a highly desirable team to play for at the moment. Much better to overpay for a solid player by a few million then to let them walk away for nothing.
Plus the Jazz very well still have enough room to sign Burks AND Kanter to whatever extensions they desire (yes, even max contracts), so nothing is on the clock for Jazz management to choose between any of the members of the
C4 F5 Jazz core for at least 3 seasons.
Here's to hoping that Hayward continues to make improvements on both ends of the floor this year and hopefully starts being a key component that leads the Jazz to some wins again!
Chances of him being with the team in the 2015-2016 season: