So we start day one without Gordon Hayward, how will we ever recover from his loss? I think the Utah Jazz are going to be fine in the long run. They may not look fine from the jump, but it’s going to work out with the gaggle of younger guards and wings who will be the primary beneficiaries of all of these extra ‘meaningful minutes’.
I’m not disappointed that Gordon excised his choice to pick where in the world he lives. I am disappointed that if he had a 2k word blog post in the chamber, why didn’t he make this news come out sooner instead of waiting for all these small forward free agents to be sent to other teams while Utah was left holding onto a massive cap hold and couldn’t make any moves. I’m also not a huge fan of the timeline of how things went down yesterday either - with the leak actually being what precipitated any news from coming out. The denials weren’t great either as in the pit of our collective stomachs we felt that Gordon was gone, in mind and spirit, if not yet body.
However, it’s not the end of the world. If anything I’m more disappointed that the Utah Jazz had to accommodate him so much after all the special treatment he received. He didn’t get to start right off the bat and play big minutes as a rookie, but he was a bigger part of the rotation than Derrick Favors (the #3 pick of that same 2010 Draft class). He was the only one out of the Favors, Enes Kanter (#3, 2011), Alec Burks (#12, 2011) group that had a regular role in the roster for much of their rookie contract.
The marketing department featured him, the sales department sold him, and the in-house PR / broadcasting / propaganda division adored him. They fawned over him like he was an over the hill veteran who signed on to play ahead of a guy on a rookie deal. All of this reached a crescendo in the days leading up to July 1st. The #Hayday thing, their radio guys suggesting that he could be the best wing player ever in franchise history. Or that he would one day have a statue in front of the
Delta Center EnergySolutions Arena Vivint Smart Home Arena Aunt Viv — that was the last straw for me.
How dare the Jazz’ own propaganda wing forget their own history? Gordon Hayward? Up there with John and Karl? Really? Moreover, this became a personal project for me over the next few days and I researched every wing player in New Orleans / Utah Jazz history. And the statement is entirely baseless and ludicrous.
Gordon Hayward, who has four total playoff wins to his credit, all in the first round, is the best wing in franchise history? Gordon Hayward, who was the first option for four straight years and got over 20 ppg just once, is the best wing in franchise history? He didn’t have to defend Michael Jordan in the NBA Finals. He didn’t have to carry a team of some of the worst talented Jazzmen ever. He didn’t have to face triple teams on the regular, as a wing player.
Even thinking about it again makes me upset at all the sucking up that went his way for the last two seasons - two seasons of development hijacked by trying to convince a guy that he should give ‘us’ a chance when he’s a free agent? This isn’t the way Jerry Sloan and Frank Layden would have handled it. This is not Larry H. Miller’s team anymore if that trade-off is made.
Utah earned every single one of those draft picks. They are assets to be used, but back in the day some of the best players to play for the team were draft picks that turned into Jazzmen. Now we’re throwing away lottery picks in order to keep Hayward happy? Can you list all of the lotto picks John and Karl played with? You go to the NBA Finals with Adam Keefe being the only other lotto pick, Gordon. Show us that you’re really the best wing in franchise history?
Let’s actually look at the numbers and judge for ourselves what his legacy in a Jazz jersey is. This data comes from the database over at basketball-reference.com - and I trust them implicitly.
Career Utah Jazz totals (regular season and playoffs combined):
Top Wing - Totals.csv
In regards to the time put in, and the simple metrics of what shows up in the box score - a few wings right off the bat have been much more productive on the court. A few of them have put in more time as well, and been a much more visible part of Jazz history, especially in the NBA Playoffs. Just in minutes alone we see Hayward is between Jeff Hornacek and Matt Harpring. That’s probably where his actual legacy lies as well.
Career Utah Jazz per game averages (regular season and playoffs combined):
Top Wing - Per Game.csv
Yeah, I don’t see how a 15 / 4 / 3 / 1 guy is the best this great franchise has to offer. He was the best player on some of the worst teams we’ve seen though. So there’s that. His peak is more similar to Kendall Gill (with the New Jersey Nets) than it was with the actual Hall of Famers. Adrian Dantley (rounding up) averaged 30 ppg in four straight seasons. And he still added 3 apg to his 30 ppg and 6 rpg over his entire Jazz career. Pete Maravich was the do it all star for this early franchise. His 25 / 4 / 6 / 1 is also better.
Ah! But both of these guys didn’t start their career with the team, nor did theirs end with the Jazz either. So to be the best you have to spend all of your career with the team? What about Darrell Griffith, his 16 / 3 / 2 / 1 is pretty similar to Hayward - but Griff was Rookie of the Year, was in the Slam Dunk contest, and actually won games in the NBA Playoffs. One rpg and one apg don’t make Hayward better than Dr. Dunkenstein.
If we’re expanding it to guys who were Jazzmen for parts of their careers you have to give it up to Bryon Russell, Jeff Hornacek, and Andrei Kirilenko as well. B-Russ had the hardest job of any Jazz wing. Horny turned a 2nd round team into an NBA Finals team. AK-47 was just better than Hayward, period. But got none of the love from the team that Gordon did. (2nd quarter time out ceremony? Not even a half-time ceremony?)
Note: I have the data for per 36 minutes and analytics as well, but I have been getting errors on uploading the table for the past 10 minutes. I think this post has too much data in it, and it’s not allowing it to happen. So I’m not going to go into the deep stuff. But I will say that Hayward doesn’t look like the best wing ever in either dataset. He wasn’t the most efficient player per 36, with guys like John Drew, Nate Williams, Donyell Marshall, and even Allan Bristow coming ahead of him.
Part of that is pace related, and just flat out ability. Hayward worked hard on his game to be a very good player. But he’s not the best that ever was. He’s just the one from the vine / instagram generation.
He has a three point shot, and many of these guys from the 70s and 80s did not. But skill development is cumulative. Today we have power forwards learning more difficult dribbling drills than guards from back in the day. Everyone is shooting from three, and back then there wasn’t even a three point line for some of the players in this data set. Skills are cumulative. Gordon Hayward has a lot of them. That’s a product of his era. It’s not all on him.
And the mantle of best Wing player ever isn’t either. He didn’t lead a team of nobodies to near immortality like Andrei did. He didn’t destroy the league like Pistol Pete or AD did. He didn’t bring the team to the cusp of a championship like Horny did. Even as a second or third banana, what he apparently wants, he didn’t do it quite like Jeff Malone or Darrell Griffith.
Is Hayward right now one of the best players in the NBA? Absolutely. Was he one of the best players on last year’s 51 win team? Yes. Did he score big in three playoff games? Yes he did.
Is his departure going to wreck the team? No more than his inclusion in it changed the history books of the franchise.
Goodbye Hayward. Thank you for being so precious for so long. Hopefully now everyone and stop acting like you were better than you actually were. The numbers, especially the analytics, suggest that you were a generalist - not a specialist. You were vanilla in a whole store full of more colorful and memorable flavors.