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Utah Jazz forward Gordon Hayward is the barometer for success against the Denver Nuggets

Is it time for G-Time to step up even more?

Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

Gordon Hayward is the undisputed leader of this Utah Jazz team. A frequent camp invite for Team USA in Las Vegas each of the last few off-seasons, the 6'8 forward is a rising star. While he isn't regarded as one by the most casual fans, his inclusion in these off-season tune ups in front of the best basketball minds on the planet is evidence of his improving stature amongst his peers. On this Jazz team he has matured into a significant on-court performer -- a real do-it-all forward with the on ball abilities that are rivaled only by the top level of small forwards in the game today. Sadly, Gordon can't do it all himself. He's the Jazz' version of LeBron James, but even LeBron can't win every game by himself.

That said, in the 18 games in his career against Denver it looks like his ability and on-court performance is the real barometer of success. He's only 8-10 for his career against the Nuggets, and averages 29.4 minutes per game in those contests. He's had some really big games, and obviously they have come later in his career as he became a focal point for both Tyrone Corbin and Quin Snyder 's offenses. But for his biggest games they have come almost uniformly in Jazz wins. He has opponent averages of 16.4 ppg, 3.9 rpg, 2.5 apg, 1.0 spg, and 0.7 bpg. In losses, well, he's just not the same Gordon; but not in the way you'd expect.

Career games against Denver -- separated by season:

M D Y MIN PTS REB AST STL BLK BARPS /min Result
1 10 27 2010 21 9 5 0 0 0 14 0.67 Loss 0 - 1
2 2 4 2011 9 0 1 0 0 0 1 0.11 Win 1 - 1
3 3 3 2011 17 6 1 0 0 0 7 0.41 Loss 1 - 2
4 4 13 2011 41 34 3 4 1 0 42 1.02 Win 2 - 2
5 12 28 2011 27 10 2 7 0 0 19 0.70 Loss 2 - 3
6 1 15 2012 33 19 4 3 1 2 29 0.88 Win 3 - 3
7 3 23 2012 37 15 7 7 2 3 34 0.92 Win 4 - 3
8 11 9 2012 22 15 1 1 0 1 18 0.82 Loss 4 - 4
9 11 26 2012 28 4 3 1 2 2 12 0.43 Win 5 - 4
10 1 5 2013 19 14 2 0 2 1 19 1.00 Loss 5 - 5
11 4 3 2013 31 18 1 2 1 0 22 0.71 Loss 5 - 6
12 11 11 2013 40 22 3 2 1 2 30 0.75 Loss 5 - 7
13 12 13 2013 38 30 13 5 1 0 49 1.29 Win 6 - 7
14 4 12 2014 35 23 4 2 2 0 31 0.89 Loss 6 - 8
15 12 1 2014 39 25 5 1 1 0 32 0.82 Loss 6 - 9
16 2 27 2015 26 15 5 5 2 0 27 1.04 Win 7 - 9
17 3 27 2015 32 24 7 3 1 1 36 1.13 Loss 7 - 10
18 4 1 2015 34 13 3 2 1 1 20 0.59 Win 8 - 10

Yeah, he's had some really big games. In fact, some of them have been outright monstrous! But this is the interesting part. Here are his splits:

  • In wins (30.8 mpg): 16.3 ppg, 4.9 rpg, 3.4 apg, 1.3 spg, 1.0 bpg
  • In losses (28.3 mpg): 16.6 ppg, 3.1 rpg, 1.8 apg, 0.8 spg, 0.5 bpg

The obvious differences are his defensive box score production and assists. Of course, if his teammates are missing shots you can't BLAME him. But here's the real unpopular opinion . . . Gordon Hayward, a proto-star . . . is going to be tasked with creating easy shots for his mates. Allen Iverson had to do it on the offensive inhibited Philly teams he took to the NBA Finals. LeBron James is doing it on the wing in the same way. Sure, I'm grading Hayward against not just All-Star players but MVP Candidates. (And future Hall of Fame players.)

Gordon is good enough to draw in the defense and get guys easy shots. So much so that with the finishers he now has around him who can cut to the basket, he should eat up the Denver Nuggets. Perhaps he's not the true barometer, but for as long as he's going to be starting for the Jazz he's going to be the weather system that everything else reacts to.

G-Time is someone who can consistently score in good times and in bad. But getting his guys points is something he can do, and should do more of. As for the defensive impact, well, it's tough when you're also the best wing defender on your team . . . but his general defensive production on defense IS better in wins. Much better.

So this is where we see the continued evolution of Hayward as a two-way player. The best players usually victimize the worst teams out there. If we are led to believe that Denver is going to finish Bottom 5 in the West then this is a club Gordon should go at.

And that means putting up the numbers that helps the team win.

We don't know how much he'll play tonight, but if the assists are there then we should be in good standing.