There's no doubt that this is Gordon Hayward 's team. With the clock running down and with the Utah Jazz needing something to happen on offense there's one guy who is just going to have the ball in his hands. And it's Gordon. In his second year as "the Man" he led this squad to an impressive 38 wins while adapting his game to Quin Snyder 's offense. It wasn't a perfect season, but with bigmen Derrick Favors and Rudy Gobert getting his back, and flanked by almost endless youth, Gordon was able to captain this ship to some thrilling victories. But he himself knows that it's more than just about winning, it's about learning, trusting, improving, and succeeding. With point guards Dante Exum and Trey Burke you see the talent is there, even if they are at times as ineffectual as any other young player in the NBA can be. Gordon knows all about that, after all the Gordon he is today wasn't the younger player he was in his first two seasons.
Hayward updated his blog and writes all about the team, the season they had, and the future they will have. Here's an excerpt:
Even though we didn't make the playoffs, I think this season was a successful one for us. More than anything, it was about growth, it was about learning and it was about experiences.
We definitely experienced a lot of things. We had buzzer-beating game-winners. We lost at the buzzer. We blew out teams by 30. We got blown out by 20-plus points. We saw everything.
We were also involved in the most games decided by five points or less. Those are the experiences that are going to help us the most in the future. Those are environments and opportunities that you can't create in practice and you can't teach. The only way to learn how you're going to respond when you're in a close game is by being in a close game, and we were in plenty of them.
By the end of the year, we were playing extremely well collectively, and we were going into most games expecting to win. That's different from my previous seasons here. Even with games that were difficult matchups, we understood that if we played our best basketball, we'd give ourselves a chance at a W.
I can say without a doubt that the thing that allowed us to have as much success as we did down the stretch was our defense.
There were a bunch of games, even in the second half, where we struggled to score. That comes with the territory. We're a young team, and we're still not as good at executing against half court defenses as those other veteran teams. That's a product of youth and inexperience. Because we don't necessarily know how to attack a defense, we're inconsistent, and that's something we're going to have to work on a bunch heading into next season.
But despite what was going on with our offense, we knew that as long as we stayed true to who we were defensively, we always gave ourselves a chance at the end of the game. That's the reason why we were successful.
It's fun to be at a place like that, especially for me, being the competitor that I am. I hate losing so much. So to be able to go into every single game expecting that if we play our best, we should win and we're going to win, that was a good feeling.
Honestly, one of the most important elements was just seeing ourselves do it. Right before the All-Star break is when I can really remember our confidence taking a turn. We played Chicago at their place in January, and just rolled them. That was a big turning point for us as a team. We went out and didn't just beat one of the best teams in the league, we destroyed them. It showed us we could do it.
By the end of the year we had this swagger about us we didn't have in the beginning. It's part of that feeling of expecting to win, and it became a habit.
Check out the full post over here, it's awesome. It really gets me excited for next year. By this time next season people are going to be worried our guys. I can't imagine how teams will guard our wings Hayward, Alec Burks, and Rodney Hood. I don't think I've ever felt that way about any Jazz team. Crazy. Bring on 2015-2016!