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Utah Jazz Gordon Hayward played like a star on this Eastern Conference Road Trip

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They say money talks, but Gordon Hayward is letting his play do the talking for him

Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

Last off-season (before the 2013-2014 season), the Utah Jazz and Gordon Hayward failed to agree to terms on a contract extension. As a result he played last year without the financial security that some of the other players from his 2010 Draft Class had, including teammate Derrick Favors. He would finish the season with eye popping statistics on a bad team, and entered restricted free agency. It wasn't long before the suitors started calling for the USA Basketball camp invitee. The Charlotte Hornets threw a match contract offer at him, which the Utah Jazz had no option but to match it.

They knew how good Gordon could be. So they had to pay the market value for their potential star.

The TV airwaves, news talk radio, and internet went ablaze, and many questioned if Gordon Hayward is a max contract player. Today the jury may still be out, but so far this season it's hard to argue that Gordon recognizes the faith and trust the franchise has in him; and is doing his best to be worth that kind of investment.

So far this season we saw him go head-to-head against LeBron James and drain the game winner in the 5th game of the season. This week he went out East to play a five games in seven nights road trip. So how did he do, overall against the likes of the Detroit Pistons, Indiana Pacers, Atlanta Hawks, New York Knicks, and Toronto Raptors?

Well, there should be few doubts if any about Gordon's ability. He has been nothing short of a star player during this last week. even if the team went 2-3.

Basic Stats:

Gordon played in all five games, and played an average of 35.09 mpg. What did he do in that time? Well....

  • PPG: 20.60
  • RPG: 4.60
  • APG: 4.20
  • SPG: 2.00
  • BPG: 0.40

If you add that up, that's 31.80 BARPS (Blocks/Assists/Rebounds/Points/Steals) per game, which may mean nothing to you unless you play fantasy basketball. His efficiency is such that he was registering one of those simple five category stats at the rage of 0.906 per one minute. That's very close to a 1:1: ratio of getting good numbers when he's out there on the floor.

While there's no science to it, if you are a 20/5/5/1+ player that means you can call yourself playing at an All-Star level. While this was only for five games we must recognize that on this highly visible period (early games, East coast bias, whatever you want to call it), he was very good.

Shooting and Scoring:

Gordon Hayward averaged over 20 points a game. Again, sample size, but if that continues to be the case for the season G-Time will be the first 20+ point scorer for the Jazz since Deron Williams ' 21.3 ppg (2010-2011, traded at the deadline and played only 53 games).

He shot 48.61 fg%, 36.84 3pt%, and 81.25 ft%. Gordon got to the line 6.40 times a game, and if not for the 0/3 performance in Atlanta, he would have gone 29/32 during this trip. Good players make their free throws. Great players don't leave points at the line in a close game. And by that measure alone you can say that Hayward played like a player in-between those two qualitative measures. Looking at the normative picture going 50/40/80 is pretty awesome.

So he shot well, and he didn't jack up a ton of shots. He only averaged 14.40 shots a game (with 3.80 from outside). He took a shot once every 2.44 minutes on the floor. He was assertive, which he like, but not shooting the ball every single time he touched it. (Point of direct comparison, in that same year D-Will averaged 21 ppg, Al Jefferson shot the ball once every 1.70 minutes on the floor. Or once every 102.29 seconds on the floor.)

Because he got to the line so much and made those shots he had a PPS (points per shot) value of 1.43, which is above that of Karl Malone's career average of 1.41. He delivered better than the Mailman on this Eastern Conference trip.

And because of his great shooting across the board he ended up with a TS% of 59.83%, and an eFG% of 53.47%.

Any way you slice it, Gordon shot the heck out of the ball, and it was awesome to see. But even better than that was the fact that he recognize it was going to be 'all on him' (something that Tracy McGrady had trouble dealing with). Gordon put the team on his (larger) shoulders, and carried the team during some of the most important stretches of the last five games. His killer instinct in Madison Square Garden was one of the best of any Jazz player. And it shows, he has a win in that building now, while the 41 year old New Orleans / Utah Jazz franchise has only 13 total.

Rebounds and Distribution:

Gordon didn't have the best game of his career in Toronto, but he was putting in work on the glass. It's even more impressive when you recognize that for some of the games he was the primary defender of the other team's best scorer. So he was playing defense, and then ALSO getting the defensive board to solidify that the other team was stopped. Sure, 5 rpg isn't the same thing as 10, but for a wing player it definitely will do. Getting stops has been the problem for the Jazz defense this year, and when your small forward is out there getting 8 defensive boards (Indy), or 7 defensive boards (Atl) that means he is committed to helping your team get stops.

Sure, it takes away some rebounds from the bigmen -- but the other way to look at is it that he is trying to help them so the task of rebounding doesn't fall to just the players on the team who are just the PFs, and Cs.

Hayward didn't just rebound the ball, then dribble up the court and shoot it himself. Because he was torching teams it helped him draw the defense towards him. This is why having star players is so critical to success, because it changes the defensive pressure around the floor, and allows for good players to kill teams with their passing. Which is what Gordon did. Save for the Atlanta game where no one was making shots down the stretch, The Precious had at least four assists in each game and averaged 5 for the four games not in Georgia. There was a little bit of fumble-itis for all of the players on the Jazz during the trip but Gordon still managed a 2.10 to 1.00 assist to turn over ratio.

This shows that he wasn't just a guy jacking up shots to score a lot, but he played a fundamental role on defense and on offense beyond that of just shooting really well.

Defense and hustle:

The one thing these numbers don't show is his actual man defense, where he made life tough for so many talented players: Josh Smith, Carmelo Anthony, DeMar DeRozan . . . uh . . . C.J. Miles? Okay. So it wasn't like playing LeBron James again, but you can tell that Hayward is just one of those guys other players don't want to be defended by.

More than that, other teams just don't want to play against him period. He averaged 2.0 steals a game on this trip. He's smart enough to know what's happening on the court while being there to lock up his man, and know where the opponents are trying to move the ball. These were not Ronnie Brewer style steals where his 6'11 wingspan and track athlete physicality allowed him to cheat in the passing lanes. This was a guy getting steals with his mind, knowing when the gamble on defense, and knowing when to time his strike.

It was awesome to see. And for those who like stats that you haven't heard of, he had a Defensive Gambling value of 1.35 (which is a ratio of steals, steal attempts, blocks, block attempts, and fouls called -- which you have to track by hand to really figure out). Gordon was more than just a one-way player (like Carmelo Anthony or Monta Ellis, or other big scorers who don't bring much else to the table).

Gestalt Offense:

GO Rating is another thing I invented to better quantify how good a player is on all aspects on offense. Sure, he wasn't just a scorer. Yes, he got boards. Yes, he passed the ball. He hustled on defense. But the easiest way to be a star in this league is to be a big deal on offense. Someone the other team absolutely has to scout and really has to gameplan for.

And for this trip Gordon Hayward's GO Rating was 109.89. For a frame of reference, what players are in the neighborhood?

Yeah, obviously not the most dominant ever, but between a group of legit star players who have taken their teams to (at least) the Final Four of the NBA as the best player on the team. (Yes, even Vince Carter did pretty okay as a 1st option.)

The Big Picture:

Gordon got paid. And he is earning his pay right now. A 5 game sample size of 20/5/5/2 is great. But the larger body of work is what we're going to watch -- and enjoy -- all season long. And he's averaging 19.2, 5.5, 4.8, 1.3 for the 2014-2015 season right now. How many other NBA players are currently averaging 19,5,4,1? Four players. LeBron James, James Harden, Stephen Curry, and Gordon Hayward.

Gordon Hayward is playing like a star. And by the time February rolls around, if he keeps it up, he should be an All-Star.