The NBA is a huge for profit business. Marketing and sales go hand in hand with the actual product available. Sure, it’s not completely maximized or fixed - otherwise we’d get the New York Knicks led by LeBron James going up against the Los Angeles Lakers and their tag-team of Stephen Curry and John Wall in the back-court in the NBA Finals. Because it’s not completely stacked against the little guy we occasionally get some small market success stories. One of them has to be the Utah Jazz this year, where you need to recognize some aspect of this franchise: either their defense anchored by Rudy Gobert (DPOY?) . . . or the massive moves made in the off-season by GM Dennis Lindsey (Executive of the Year) . . . or what Quin Snyder and his staff has done with this young roster (COY) . . . or even *gasp* admit that Gordon Hayward is pretty darn good.
How good is Hayward remains to be the question. He was an All-Star reserve this year in the Western Conference. There are 24 All-star (at least) every year (there are some injuries every year now), but only 15 All-NBA slots. Is Gordon good enough to be All-NBA? In order to do so you pretty much have to be well regarded and liked by the National media. And in order to do so - in a small market - that means your team has to win and you have to be recognized as an MVP-ish player.
If we choose to listen to NBA.com and their great writers (and I do) it seems like there’s some noise slowly forming around the name “Gordon Hayward.” Super talented writer and smart basketball mind Sekou Smith has been posting an “MVP Ladder” of 10 players each week of the season. Being Utah Jazz fans who have been watching our team aim for the middle of the NBA Lottery over the past five seasons, I wouldn’t hold it against you if you didn’t about about the MVP Ladder.
Heck, even THIS season there was no point to keep tabs on it . . . until recently. Gordon Hayward is making like the #hashtag, and forcing people to #TakeNote of the Utah Jazz. And over the past six months Sekou Smith has G-Time in the Top 10.
By my count there are 22 weeks in this season, and now with week 17 in the books, that means there are four more to go. (Excel auto framed the chart to 26 on the x-axis and it’s 3:06 am, so I’m not going to change that.) Can Gordon sustain his performance and finish the season on (at least on one persons’) Top 10 list?
I sure hope so.
We’re going to have to watch the next 17 games to find out, for sure. But in the mean time, let’s go over some of the things that Smith has written about our Free Agent to be:
Week 12 (link):
Hayward has been a stalwart for a Jazz team that continues to scratch and claw its way into the thick of the Western Conference playoff picture this season. Western Conference coaches rewarded his hard work with the first All-Star spot of his career. (20.6 points, 4.8 rebounds, 2.0 assists in his last five games).
Week 13 (link):
The Jazz have quietly moved into the top position in the Northwest Division behind the work of Hayward, Rudy Gobert and the supremely underrated George Hill. And if you want a snapshot of exactly what Hayward provides, just watch what he did in Wednesday’s win against Milwaukee. (18.2 points, 5.4 rebounds, 3.2 assists, 1.0 steals in his last five games).
Week 14 (link):
Hayward has been on a tear recently, particularly since learning that he’d earned his first All-Star bid. The Jazz have solidified themselves as a legitimate top-four Western Conference team behind the work of Hayward, who has improved dramatically on both ends this season. (28.6 points, 6.0 rebounds, 3.6 assists, 1.6 steals in his last five games).
Week 15 (link):
Now that his first All-Star Game experience is int he rear-view mirror, Hayward can get back to the more important business of helping the Jazz nab homecourt advantage for a first-round playoff series. Getting guard Rodney Hood back from injury tonight against Milwaukee (8 ET, NBA LEAGUE PASS)will no doubt aid in that cause. But make no mistake, Hayward has to lead the way from here on out (20.8 points, 3.4 rebounds, 3.2 assists, 1.2 steals in his last five games).
Week 16 (link):
After back-to-back road wins over Milwaukee and Washington Hayward and the Jazz find themselves trying to dig out of a mini two-game slide (at Oklahoma City and against Minnesota) with the Brooklyn Nets visiting Vivint Smart Home Arena tonight (9 ET, NBA LEAGUE PASS). Hayward had a combined 59 points in those wins and just 32 in those losses. (19.8 points, 3.8 rebounds, 3.0 assists in his last five games).
Week 17 (link):
Hayward went whisker-to-whisker with James Harden in an impressive Jazz road win over the Rockets Wednesday, holding his own on the offensive end and drawing the toughest assignment of the night trying to contain Harden on the other end. The days off between that test and Saturday’s game in Oklahoma City couldn’t have come at a better time (18.8 points, 5.4 rebounds, 3.8 assists in his last five games).
There seems to be a progression here. At the beginning it was just text. As it has gone on, and Hayward has become a regular fixture in the MVP Ladder, Jazz games are getting promoted - and videos of Gordon and his exploits have been added (I can’t embed them here, so you’re going to have to click on the links to NBA.com to watch them).
And that’s pretty interesting when you frame Gordon’s ascendance with how much **more** the NBA is promoting him now. Part of it has to be the Utah Jazz winning more. A lot of it, actually. But not ZERO % of it is marketing and sales and the gears that run the universe accepting Gordon has a Top 10 NBA player. Some of that does come into play. To pretend like it’s all a real meritocracy is to be a little naive here.
So I fully well accept and embrace the fact that our Gordon Hayward is FINALLY getting the respect he deserves. I love seeing that. He has worked very hard and he has been a catalyst in the rapid rise Utah is making this year. I don’t know if he’s going to be the MVP (probably not), but I do think he can sustain his level of play over the next month while helping Utah win a bunch of games.
That should help keep him in the Top 10 of NBA.com ‘s MVP Ladder. And if he finishes the season in the Top 10, doesn’t that mean he should be an All-NBA player?