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Utah Jazz vs Indiana Pacers Overtone: Revisiting Hayward vs George

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I’ve become convinced they might be the same person.

NBA: Indiana Pacers at Utah Jazz Russ Isabella-USA TODAY Sports

Ever since Gordon Hayward and Paul George were taken 9th and 10th in the 2010 NBA Draft, their careers have been somewhat tied at the hip. Over the first six full years of their careers, the general consensus is that Hayward is a nice piece to a contending team, but George is a superstar. Paul George has been categorized as the kind of elite two-way player that can change a franchise while Hayward has been slotted into the “#2 option on a contender” role.

I’ll admit that, even as a Jazz fan, I’ve often thought that the Jazz would be better off had they taken George instead of Hayward in that 9th spot in that draft. With the two meeting once again tonight when the Jazz host the Pacers at the Viv, I thought it might be fun to take a closer look at how the two are doing this season.

Their per game stats are remarkably similar. Hayward has the slightest edge in both shooting percentages and in assists. George edges Hayward out in the rebounding category. However, I know what you’re all saying. “It’s 2017, why are we looking at counting stats? What about adjusting for pace? With all the advanced statistical information available to us, wouldn’t that be more useful?”

Simply, yes. You’re right. All of you. Let’s take a look at some of those advanced categories.

The nice thing about the advanced statistical categories is that the usage rate of the two is almost identical, so we’re on a level playing field here. The first thing that I notice is that the one per game category where George had the edge, rebounding, is now another area where G-Time has just a slight lead. His assist and shooting advantages actually increase, and George turns the ball over nearly three percent more often. (which surprised me, as Hayward’s turnovers are often one of my few gripes about his play. Maybe I’m just spoiled.) The one area in which Hayward leads by a mile is in their offensive and defensive ratings. When Hayward is on the court, the Jazz score 118 points per 100 possessions and give up 105. When George is on the court for the Pacers, his team scores 107 points per 100 possessions and gives up 107. I’m willing to at least somewhat chalk that up to the fact that Hayward just plays on the better team, which I don’t think anyone would disagree with.

Conclusion: Hayward by a nose, though it’s just about as close as you can get.

After looking at all of the stats for the two players, I’ve come to one conclusion: They’re so close to each other that I could very easily be convinced of some optical illusion in which they’re actually the same person.