2017 Gordon Hayward vs. 2023 Lauri Markkanen: Which Jazz All Star is Better?


There is nothing better for a sports fan than when your favorite team has zero expectations... and then exceed said expectations.

Jazz fans saw this in the 2017-2018 season when rookie Donovan Mitchell led his team to the second round of the playoffs, just one season after all star Gordon Hayward up and left for greener pastures in the eastern conference. Nobody believed they could make the playoffs that year, and even the most delusional Jazz fan thought the best case scenario would be a 7 or 8 seeded playoff sweep.

Mitchell, who in hindsight should have won rookie of the year over Ben Simmons, took over for the void left by Hayward and made his mark both on and off the court, becoming an all time fan favorite in Salt Lake City.

Now, in the season following Mitchell and Gobert's trade, Lauri Markkanen has taken the hearts of Utahns and basketball fans everywhere, by unexpectedly blooming into a potential all star starter in his 6th season in the league. The once top contenders for the "Wembenyama sweepstakes" are now in a tight battle in the crowded western conference for a playoff spot.


While Lauri isn't the long term answer for the Jazz, and any second now Danny Ainge could blow the whole thing up, right now Jazz fans can watch a curly haired, Finnish power forward dunk over the rest of the league.

As you look closer into Lauri's magical season, you can see more and more similarities with Hayward's lone all star year in Utah:

  • Both were middle lottery picks (Lauri 7th in 2017 and Gordon 9th in 2010).
  • Lauri will be a first time all star in his sixth season. For Hayward it was his seventh.
  • Both will be the leading scorer and only all star for Utah (Even though Rudy Gobert was a major snub behind then Clippers center, Deandre Jordan. Rudy was a few votes off from the All NBA first team that year and couldn't even get the 12th all star spot. Such is the life of a small market NBA player in the 2010s west.).
  • Both are first time all stars.
  • Both are wearing some of the more... unique jerseys in Jazz history, with Hayward dawning the forgotten sleeved jerseys, and Lauri wearing a yellow that should almost be illegal to look at.gettyimages-988454782-1024x1024.0.jpg
  • Both are whi- whimsical to watch on the floor.

But who was the better all star?

Gordon Hayward 2016-2017:

People are quick to forget, but the 2016 off season was a big one for the Jazz. While the 2014-15 season showed signs of potential, the 2015-16 season was marked with disappointment as they missed the playoffs on the last day of the season, and then let a 37-year-old Kobe drop 60 points on them with the entire world watching.

That offseason the Jazz were a lot more active, trading for point guard George Hill, signing veterans Boris Diaw and Joe Johnson, and going all in on Rudy Robert, signing him to a 4 year $102 million contract.

It was also pivotal for Hayward, who was in his 7th season and coming up on contract year. While he had improved every season in thus far, it always felt like there was more to give. But was he good enough to give more?


In Hayward's contract year he averaged 21.9 points, 5.4 rebounds, 3.5 assists, and a steal a game, and snagged one of the last spots in the Western Conference All Star team.


Not only did Hayward step up, but so did the Jazz.

Gobert proved he deserved his contract extension, George Hill had the best season of his career, and the veteran signings of Diaw and Johnson proved valuable.

This was also a gigantic season for Joe Ingles, who finished third in 3pt fg% and became a vital part of Jazz basketball for the next 5 years.

The Jazz finished with 51 wins and the 5th seed, matching up with the Clippers in their last year of the "Lob City" era.

Hayward (and the Joes, both Johnson and Ingles) quickly became the Clippers worst nightmare.

In his first playoff series since 2012, Hayward came out and averaged 23.7 points and 7.3 rebounds. It was a well played series highlighted by a 40 point performance in game 3 and a 26 point outing in a dominating game 7 win over LA.


The Jazz inevitably got demolished by the greatest (yes, the greatest) team of all time in the Golden State Warriors, but Hayward had already done his job, and the rest of the league took notice.

He was the hottest free agent in the NBA that offseason (it was an off year), and eventually, much to the disliking of Jazz fans, joined his college coach in Boston and the rest was history (he became a decent wing who was injured more often than not).

2022-2023 Lauri Markkanen

After 3 straight disappointing playoff exits, newly acquired Danny Ainge decided it was finally time to make some changes.

In just one off season, the Jazz traded away three time all stars Donovan Mitchell and Rudy Gobert, three year starter, Royce O'Neal, and excellent scorer, Bojan Bogdanovic, all in hopes of obtaining draft picks and getting a shot at the 18-year-old French monster, Victor Wembenyama.


Donovan Mitchell was traded to Cleveland in exchange for Lauri Markkanen, Collin Sexton, Ochai Agbaji, and three first round picks.

Almost an afterthought in the Mitchell trade was the acquisition of Lauri Markkanen, who was in the same draft class as Mitchell himself, but never had the success of Spida.

While promising in his first two seasons, Chicago coaching struggles and an unfortunate spell of injuries led to Lauri's play digressing and stagnating, resulting in a trade to Cleveland where he once again faced injuries.

When the Utah-Cleveland trade went down, fans and media expected Colin Sexton to become the high volume scorer, not Lauri. Sexton had been a high scorer on a bad team before so it seemed like a perfect fit for him out west.

But to everyones surprise, the 6th year Finnish pro came out and averaged 25 points on a potential playoff team.

This season, Lauri is averaging 24.6 points and 8.6 rebounds per game on a whopping 52% from the field and 41% from three.


It seems like every week there is a crazy, excessive stat about Lauri that's comparing him to the greats. Check these out:

  • Only player since Bird and Dirk to average 24 and 8 on 52/41/88% shooting (is this stat racist?).
  • Lauri and Steph are the only players this season to average 20 or more on 50% from the field and 40% from three.
  • Only player in the league with 70 threes and 70 dunks.
Do these stats mean anything in the long run? Besides the fact that they prove he is a top ten player of all time, no, they don't mean a whole lot. But it can provide perspective on the unprecedented type of season he is having.

The season is still going, and jury is out on whether or not the Jazz will make the playoffs, but for a team and player who were projected to finish bottom three in the league, this season is already a resounding success.

So Who's Better?

The Case for Gordon:
  • The 2017 team was much better than this year's Jazz. That shouldn't be a knock on Markkanen, but there should be something said about being the leading scorer on a division winning team.
  • Stats are very inflated this year, almost so much it's scary. Every day it seems like someone different is scoring 50 points. It truly is one of the most wild individual scoring seasons in modern NBA history. Could Lauri be benefitting from this?
  • The modern NBA shoots an infinite amount more threes than they did just six years ago. The 2017 Jazz shot just 26 threes a game while, this year's team shoots 40. Who knows how many points Hayward could have scored with the amount of three point shooting and spacing in today's game.
  • Winning the Jazz's first playoff series since 2010 is a big feat, and was massive for such a basketball crazed city.

The Case for Lauri
  • Lauri's shooting numbers make for one of the most efficient, high scoring seasons in recent Jazz history. 50/40/80 is hard to do. Really hard.
  • Hayward's season wasn't necessarily expected, but also wasn't a surprise. The Jazz were an up and coming young team and it seemed that Hayward could have an all star level season. The question wasn't could he, but would he. The added surprise factor for Lauri really is a bonus.
  • Lauri could end up being an all star starter, and if not he will most likely be the first man out. Hayward made the team by the skin of his teeth (albeit in a really loaded year for the west. Dame and Rudy didn't even make the team).
  • Lauri's play this winter has been on another level. Over his last ten games he is averaging 30.5 points and 10 rebounds. That is a 30 point double double for a power forward who is not known for his rebounding, and was primarily just a mid range and three point shooter in his first few years.

The Winner is...

It's simple really:

If the Jazz manage to make the play in, Lauri is the better all star. If not, then Gordon Hayward should be rewarded and recognized for his excellent 2017 season, but Lauri might still take the cake.


Lauri's efficiency is just too much to overlook, and that fact that this current team is even in playoff contention is a miracle in itself.

What really does it for Markkanen is his play as of late. If he can keep this up for the rest of the season, we could be talking an all NBA team. Something Hayward never sniffed.

How do you view these two all star seasons? Let me know what you think, and what are some of your other favorite Jazz or NBA all stars in the past.

All comments are the opinion of the commenter and not necessarily that of SLC Dunk or SB Nation.