Name: Gordon Hayward
Position: Small Forward
Acquired: Free Agency (July 14, 2017)
Contract: Four-years, $128 million remaining
2016-17 Stats: 21.9 PPG, 5.4 RPG, 3.5 APG, 1.0 SPG
It’s pretty easy to look at his stats and see that he can score, but the Utah Jazz turned Hayward into one of the most complete players in the league. This guy can score in both the half court and fast break offense and he’s also a strong defender who can play against multiple positions, which allowed him in well on a Jazz team that allowed a league low 96.8 PPG last season. It’s possible that Kyrie Irving will lead this team in scoring, but make no mistake that Hayward is still the best player on this team as a guy who can score 20 points per game in a number of different ways while also being solid defensively and making his teammates around him even better.
One of the biggest holes in Hayward’s game is that he give up the ball way too much for a non-point guard. He’s averaged 2.5 turnover per game over the past four seasons and that’s too much for somebody who has never been the primary ball handler for his team. To compare this to last year’s Celtics team, Isaiah Thomas – who always had the ball to start things off in the half court offense – only turned the ball over 2.8 times per game. This led the team as no other player averaged over two per game.
People don’t fully realize the leap that Hayward made as a player last season. It’s easy to see he posted a career high scoring average, but it’s also important to look past that very basic statistic. The former Butler star did all of this while averaging his smallest minutes total since the 2012-13 campaign and he did this by becoming a much improved shooter. A career 43.8% shooter heading into last season, Hayward wound up shooting 47.1% from the floor. He was also a 36.0% shooter from three point range and wound up hitting those shots at an impressive 39.8% clip. Nobody really thinks of him as a true sharpshooter, but people will start to recognize this if it continues.
Hayward will have his best offensive season yet as he reunites with Brad Stevens. Rudy Gobert is rightfully seen as one of the league elite centers, but Al Horford will be a much better big man for him to play with as he comes over to Boston. Gobert is by far a better defender and rebounder than Horford – quite frankly it’s not that close – but he’s also very limited on the offensive end and can’t do much unless he’s positioned in the paint. This often clogs the lane and takes away the opportunity for ball handers to drive to the basket. Horford is a very fluid offensive weapon who can score from anywhere – including the paint – and also do damage as a passer and a ball handler himself. While we know Hayward can knock down a jump shot, he’ll score even more this season with the Celtics as more driving opportunities are presented to him.