Gordon Hayward to the Jazz

June 25th, 2010 | by Spencer Hall

Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE/Getty Images

Life is good for Gordon Hayward today. Even though his pro career began with hearty booing, he became a very rich man when the Jazz took him with the 9th pick in last night’s draft. It would have been a perfectly magical evening if he didn’t have the misfortune of being the final product of more than six years of anticipation for Jazz fans.

After Isiah Thomas gifted Utah an unprotected first-round pick, many thought this pick would be parlayed into a franchise-changing player. Instead the Jazz appear to have approached the draft with a “Best Nine Year-Old Available” philosophy. That’s a little unfair, but poor Gordon Hayward really was just 14 years old when the Jazz fleeced the Knicks in 2004, and will have to prove that looking like a white elementary school student isn’t a fair predictor of basketball talent.

The vitriol from the crowd seemed to be directed toward GM Kevin O’Connor rather than strictly toward Hayward. The angry shouts from the crowd stunned the season ticket holder who announced the pick and led KOC to take the microphone and say “My hope is that you aren’t booing in two years.”

Several reporters grilled O’Connor about his “two years” comment, and he was quick to point out that he was referring to the time when Hayward’s contract will be up for renegotiation and the Jazz will have to make a decision on keeping him, rather the comment being a referendum on O’Connor’s performance as the architect of the talent on the Jazz. Nice gig, right? There aren’t many general managers in the league with the kind of job security that will allow them to make unpopular picks and have full confidence that ownership will allow them bring the player along slowly.

Apparently the Jazz tried to move up in the draft but couldn’t find any takers. By the time the 9th pick rolled around O’Connor felt like the talent was basically in “tier two” and the team was in agreement with their pick.

So now the question is whether Hayward can take his game to the pro level. I really enjoyed watching him play in the NCAA tournament, and as KOC mentioned, “Winning counts for something.” He won a state championship in high school in Indiana and led unlikely Butler to the championship game in the NCAA tournament. The way he awkwardly but unrelentingly came up with big plays and never quit throughout the tournament showed me something special. His game kind of reminds me of a young Manu Ginobili in the sense that his looks belie a competitive spirit and knack for the game. If a balding Argentine can be a dominant player in this league, a lanky tennis player could surprise us too. He’s clearly a very smart player and plays with heart and knows how to win. On those qualities alone he brings a lot to the table for the Jazz.

The other question is what this means for the future of Kyle Korver. The local heartthrob is an unrestricted free agent and it’s almost a sure thing that at least one team will throw enough money his way to lure him away. The Hayward pick could very well be jersey sales insurance if Korver moves on. O’Connor wouldn’t touch questions about Korver (and probably isn’t allowed to discuss until July 1st anyway), but the possibility remains that someone will have to pick up the slack in pink bejeweled jersey sales. If that’s the case, Hayward has a real possibility to become a legend in this state. If he plays his cards correctly and develops into a player who just wins, he could own this place.

It may not have been the most obvious pick, but it’s done and I’m looking forward to the Hayward era.

Spencer Hall
Founder Spencer Hall has covered the NBA, Team USA and NBA D-League since 2007 and launched Salt City Hoops in 2009. Spencer is now the news director at KSL.com
Spencer Hall
Spencer Hall

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28 Comments

  1. cmac says:

    not the most obvious pick? A white guy to the Jazz? Really?!

    • Ha ha, touchĂ©. I suppose it was just shockingly cliche. I tweeter earlier along the lines of Indiana being ticked that Utah cuts into their white guy pool.

      The white guy angle is one of the more interesting, because I don’t think he would have been booed like that if he were black. As much as the selections don’t do much to dispell perceptions, I’m convinced that the Jazz front office doesn’t care at all about race, to their credit.

  2. Diana says:

    I was at the ESA booing. I couldn’t believe that we have been talking about his pick for six years and all we get is Matt Harpring 2.0. While I think our team needs another Harpring you don’t take him with the NY pick. remember how many trades were brought up over the last couple of years and they kept saying it wasn’t worth it for the Jazz to give up the pick.
    Hayward is not what any of us envisioned with the pick.
    Of course I am a diehard Jazz fan so I’ll be cheering Hayward on when he steps onto the court. I’ll hope for the best. I also hope that they have a plan to strengthen the front court. Its been too weak for three years now and nothing has changed except other teams getting better.
    sloan and KOC both said the fans don’t know what we are doing, if they did than they wouldn’t be booing. Those statments reminded me of when Bronco said the same thing to BYU fans. My thought is that is not a very good PR move with an already disgruntled fan base.

  3. john says:

    still feel that way about bronco

  4. Bman says:

    Diane, who was a better pick at that spot? The only one I can see was maybe Aldrich. Easy to complain that we didnt get Kobe Bryant at #9, but what else was there?

  5. K says:

    Bman,
    Aldrich, Davis, Patterson, Henry, and even Babbitt were all higher on Jazz fans’ radars. I would have much preferred us to go with any of the first three, and Henry seems like a better wing. Of course, I’ll be cheering for Hayward, and I hope we’re all proven wrong about him.

  6. Luke says:

    As a Butler guy and a Hoosier I can tell you after watching this kid play for a few years now that you have someone special. Last year he fell below his 40 percent long distance shooting, but has a sweet shot that will come back. He also makes plays that make a difference in the outcome of the game. He might not be a immediate impact, but will be a player you will love in the years to come. Mark my words he will be a starter ( in a year or two) and a very good second tier player.

  7. JT says:

    Can you say “Poor Man’s Keith Van Horn”! That’s what you got Utah. You can relate to that one. He’ll be solid but he won’t get you past the lakers. Aldrich maybe could have. Oh well, too late!

  8. LM says:

    First of all, we need another point guard to help out D Will. Second, we need another shooting guard like Jeff Hornaseck. Third, we need a big man who can handle the Lakers big man. Either Fesenko and Koufos works on their game or get someone that can take care of business on the bottom. We can’t have no 6’9 forward guarding a 7 foot center everytime we play the Lakers. Let Korver and Millsap go…we don’t need sometime players that play when we play easy teams but can’t find them when we are playing the Lakers. We need players who can bring us a championship NOW and not 2 years from now. I am a die hard Utah Jazz fan living in Los Angeles…sick and tired of seeing these Laker flags flying around. Come on front office let’s do something about it.

  9. Duece says:

    me too lm die hard jazz fan in la i hate the fakers but we will be alright

  10. Taylor Christensen says:

    wow, 11 comments, i’m impressed spencer, you’re starting to get pretty poplular!

  11. Taylor Christensen says:

    first of all, no, we won’t be alright because we’ll never get past the lakers without size and length, and second of all, Millsap plays the Lakers seven footers better than anyone on our team, thats why you let boozer go, and pick up a seven footer of our own. Fesenko IS NOT THE AWNSER! But we probably never will have size cause KOC has an attraction to skinny white men, so whatever!

  12. LM says:

    man millsap is weak, get him out of there. need guys with size and length. the two bigman we have are weak, we need to get a GM who knows the game, how to pick the right players, stop getting players who only shoot from the outside, we need players who has all around game. sorry about what i said to the players, but im a jazz fan living in los angeles, its ruff out here being a jazz fan, but they cant touch me baby, one day i will be driving around los angeles with my UTAH JAZZ CHAMPIONSHIP FLAG…… GO JAZZ!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  13. fact check says:

    “when the Jazz fleeced the Knicks in 2004..”

    Nice job of reporting, but the pick came from the suns from when they fleeced the knicks.

  14. JD W says:

    Look, i was born and raised in SLC, moved to Houston. Now, everyone who is really a die hard Jazz fan would love this pick. With the Jazz system, is there anyone who would fit Sloan’s system more than Hayward? NO! This was the pick I was waiting for. Personally I am glad Boozer is leaving. Sure he is a great rebounder and scorer, but with his attitude towards the team and State and injuries; it was good while it lasted. We will not win a title as long as the NBA keeps giving titles to LA and Boston. Utah is a middle tier team and we have to make moves like Hayward in the draft to complete a squad more than just get some great guy. D-Will is that guy and we can win around him. The Jazz just have to do something in free-agency, not lose Korver and get a decent defensive forward to replace boozer. And I hope those Euro-picks we have been making the last few years start to show soon, though I doubt it.

  15. Taylor Christensen says:

    Milsap is weak?!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! ha ha, did you mean to say,”mIlsap is a beast” cause that’s what everyone else says, i’ve never heard him described as weak!!!!!!!!!!!

  16. LM says:

    milsap a beast, please!! give me a break. hayward is who u were waiting for, untill he does something for the team, then he will geat some respect. untill then he was a bad pick.

  17. Kanto says:

    Boozer’s overrated in my opinion, D-Will’s the only reason his stat sheet was so good. Millsap can replace him easily, Paul’s a better shotblocker and defender as well, for the most part.
    I’m not convinced by the Hayward pick, he doesn’t seem to fit the Jazz game and what they need right now. I’m sure he’d be good on the Knicks or the Nets though. The Jazz needed some tough big guy who could clean up the glass and block shots, someone like Perkins or Bogut, or heck Al Horford. Worst case scenario, Hayward is a bust, best case scenario, he’s a AK without the shotblocking and defensive intensity, most likely scenario he’s a Harpring with better range.
    The Jazz have to get a trade, do a sign & trade with Boozer for an impact maker.

  18. Ginny Killila says:

    I am a Indiana native (and I work at Butler University) visiting family in Logan, Utah. I have to say I was a little surprised by some of the comments above. Now, if our Pacers were anything like they were back when Reggie Miller played, I would have LOVED for Hayward to stay at home – but he is going to do well out here. Yes, he is young (and looks younger than he is), but that the best thing -everyone seems to underestimate him by his looks and age. He is also a very strong TEAM player. Butler did not make it to the finals with one or two showboat players – we made it there because of the team – Hayward included. he will play the way he knows best – what Is best for the TEAM. I do wished he stayed at Butler for one more year, but I wish nothing but the best for him out here. The Jazz have a new fan in Indy – good luck Gordon!

  19. T-chris says:

    I don’t know how haywards gunna turn out, but it’s a good thing he was the #9 pick and was already signed cause if he wasn’t, he would get cut after the summer league. I don’t know what he’s capable of but he’s just not doing anything right now whether because he can’t or because he’s “patient”

  20. Stefan says:

    Check out my thoughts on the NBA offseason thus far:

    sportsaccordingtome.com

  21. Stefan says:

    Check out my thoughts on the fallout from LeBron’s decision, the Randolph-Lee trade and NBA Summer League.

    sportsaccordingtome.com

  22. Stefan says:

    The fallout from LeBron’s decision, the Randolph-Lee trade and NBA Summer League.

    sportsaccordingtome.com

  23. PBH says:

    Look at this kids stats in the summer league, anybody still booing Hayward? Look at the recaps… unselfish great passer with a 3 pointer, steal with a dunk, a baseline drive losing 3 defenders…reminds me of another lanky white – hall of famer that wore green…ya heard it here 1st…

  24. Stefan says:

    Check out my thoughts on the sale of the Warriors and an offseason version of Charles Oakley Rankings

    sportsaccordingtome.com

  25. lostintokyo says:

    where is the master of this domain? looking for Jazz insight over the past week & his take on the big trade…

  26. Phoorat says:

    Jazz fans booed Stockton when HE was picked.

  27. James says:

    Really, this is our awesome plan?….. Hmm in 2 years we will be good…… we have been good enough to make the playoffs 19 of the last 22 years, yet can’t win a championship. I am sick of always waiting for 2 more years. Put up the money and make the moves to get some real players, and most importantly FIRE JERRY SLOAN!!!!!! He is never going to win a title so get him the hell out!!!! Get us a coach you can shows guys how to win.

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