Gordon Hayward: The NBA’s Finest Swiss Army Knife

November 18th, 2014 | by Dakota Schmidt
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Gordon Hayward is the Utah Jazz’s Swiss Army Knife. (Photo by Ron Turenne/NBAE via Getty Images)

After the Utah Jazz matched Charlotte’s four-year, $63 million offer sheet, there was a mix of negative and positive feedback about the deal and Gordon Hayward’s actual worth. While there was no doubt that Hayward is an extremely unique player that make an impact in a bevy of different ways, he’s failed to exhibit any real consistency during his career with the Jazz. During the season prior to his extension, Hayward finished the year with a career-worst .520 true shooting percentage (TS%), that included him shooting just 30% from behind the three-point line.

While Hayward’s less than stellar performance was definitely disappointing, there were a few good explanations behind that play. Perhaps the most glaring issue behind Hayward’s lack of progression dealt with the team’s real lack of an offensive system during their time under Tyrone Corbin. During that time, the offensive basically ran through ISO and basic pick-and-roll sets which allowed the opposing defense to focus on Hayward.

That issue ultimately changed during the same off-season as Hayward’s extension, when the Jazz hired Quin Snyder to help engineer the young, rebuilding core. With the hiring of Snyder, Gordon Hayward and the rest of the Jazz organization hoped that the team’s stagnant offensive system could turn into a distant memory.

As mentioned in my piece on Derrick Favors, Snyder has turned Utah’s offense into a high-energy set that relies heavily on ball movement. With that approach, Gordon Hayward has a lot more opportunities to play off-ball, which allows him to get a multitude of open looks during the game. While he can utilize his ball-handling ability to break down the opposition and get an open look, Hayward seems to be a lot more comfortable when he can use off-ball screens to either cut to the paint or capture open perimeter looks.

Snyder’s impact is clearly exhibited by Hayward becoming a much more efficient player. Going into Tuesday night’s game against Oklahoma City, Hayward has an extremely impressive .610 TS%, which exceeds the likes of LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony and Kyrie Irving. While the addition of Snyder and his offensive scheme has a lot to do with Hayward’s improved efficiency, the 6’8” forward has become a lot more comfortable with his role as Utah’s Swiss Army knife.

When you dig inside and examine the multifaceted player, the first thing that becomes apparent is how solid he is at cutting and scoring from around the rim. Per SportVu, Hayward has scored 7.6 points per 48 minutes on drives to the rim, which puts him in a similar category to the likes of DeMar DeRozan, LeBron James and Jrue Holiday. Hayward is shooting 58% on drives, which is more effective than All-Stars like Dwyane Wade, Jrue Holiday and Rajon Rondo.

That controlled aggression has also lead Hayward to get to the free throw line on a consistent basis. Per 36 minutes, Hayward is averaging a little more than 5 free throw attempts. When Hayward does get to the charity stripe, he’s shooting 89%, which would put him in that upper echelon of free-throw shooters in the entire NBA.

Transitioning over the perimeter, Hayward has made some notable strides over his work from the previous season. While his 35% three-point shooting percentage may not be too impressive, it’s a significant improvement over the prior season where he barely eclipsed 30%. The improvement from beyond the arc has also led Hayward to becoming a more effective mid-range scoring threat.

Hayward’s all-around improvement is extremely impressive when you think about how he’s the second most utilized player on the Jazz, behind Enes Kanter. As the Jazz continue to progress through the season, and their rebuilding process, Hayward will probably remain the most important player to the team’s offense. While the season is still incredibly young, the Jazz organization has to be ecstatic about how Hayward has been able to main consistency, despite being the team’s top scoring option.

Even though Hayward does have the prestigious role of being Utah’s most dependable scoring threat, that shouldn’t take away from his ability as a facilitator. Inside Snyder’s offense that’s based around a lot of ball movement, Hayward is an incredibly useful player, as he can be utilized as another distributor alongside Trey Burke. As showcased with SportVu, Hayward creates 10 assist opportunities per game, which actually exceeds Trey Burke. With those assist opportunities, Hayward’s facilitating ability has helped create 12 points per game, which is actually a higher total than point guards Kemba Walker and Jeremy Lin.

By counting in his work as a facilitator, Gordon Hayward is one of the more impactful offensive players in the entire league. While there might be players that are better than Hayward in particular facets of the game, there’s not a lot of names that make the kind of all-around impact that he does. Whether it would be through his work through his work as a cutter, perimeter shooter or facilitator, Hayward is the kind of unique player that would be nearly impossible to replace. Utah’s Swiss Army knife brings enough to the team to make him one of the most valuable players in the entire NBA.

Dakota Schmidt

A Wisconsinite who spends way too much time watching mediocre basketball. Started to love the game as I watched the "Big 3" era of the Bucks in the early 2000's but was eventually raised on the teams lead by the likes of Michael Redd, Desmond Mason and Andrew Bogut. Those mediocre teams helped me grow an appreciation for the less than spectacular style of basketball which has lead me to different gigs with Queen City Hoops (Bobcats), Ridiculous Upside (D-League) and now Salt City Hoops.

2 Comments

  1. Ryan says:

    Nice article. I was frustrated this off-season when everyone was freaking out about Hayward’s big deal. Yes, he got a max contract even though he hadn’t been a “max player”, but he was in a max player situation with the Jazz. We had the money, and Hayward was the most valuable player the Jazz could sign in all of free agency (among the players that would have even thought about playing in Utah). Hayward has so much potential, and he’s really starting to reach that. I can’t wait for all the other pieces on our roster to continue to develop with all the experience they’re getting! There was so much annoying negative reaction to Hayward’s deal, especially on the national level. I’m pumped that he is proving them wrong so early in the season!

    Go Jazz

  2. Mewko says:

    Gordon looks like he has a legit beard, and not that fluffy scruff 10th Grade Boys get.

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