By: Kenny Doyle
Gordon Hayward signing with the Celtics has been met with mixed reaction around the NBA. Most fans and media alike seem to think Hayward’s impact on the Celtics will be minimal and that Boston shouldn’t be talked about as one of the best teams in the NBA. This is all in spite of the fact that the Celtics were the #1 seed in the east last year and have added an All-Star and franchise player to their roster. Yes, Gordon Hayward is a franchise player. For proof just ask anyone in the Utah Jazz front office or just keep reading.
The west is widely regarded as a much tougher conference than the east and Hayward led an injury riddled Jazz team to the second round of the playoffs, finishing as one of the 4 best teams in the west. The Rockets are adding Chris Paul who has done the same thing with his team in years past and people are talking about whether or not they can beat the Warriors, even though Chris Paul was injured for a lot of last season and is a lot older than Gordon Hayward. Those who were concerned that people were starting to overrate Hayward have failed to realize that Gordon Hayward is really one of the most underrated players in the NBA.
If you took the top player from every playoff team in the west last year, Hayward would probably be the least highly regarded amongst the common fan outside of maybe Mike Conley, and that should tell you something. Memphis and Utah are two of the worst NBA markets in the league. The teams have a small media presence and their slow styles don’t exactly draw in neutral fan interest. There just weren’t a lot of eyes on Hayward in Utah. Fans don’t know how good he is yet, but his stats are on par with the top players in the NBA.
Last season, only 6 players in the entire NBA had averages of 21 ppg, 5 rpg, 1 spg, on 47% from the field. LeBron James, Kevin Durant, Kawhi Leonard, Giannis Antetokounmpo, Anthony Davis, ….. and Gordon Hayward. (per Basketball Reference)
Yet you would be met with outrageous backlash if you were to include Gordon Hayward in the conversation with those players. Hayward averaged those numbers despite playing on a Jazz team that ranked dead last in the NBA in both pace and field goal attempts. Leading to less shots, assists, and rebounds for Hayward. Think about that for a second. Hayward averaged numbers on par with 5 of the 10 best players in the league and all those players played in faster systems with more opportunities to stuff the stat sheet. Imagine what Hayward can do on a Celtics team playing in a faster system with the best floor spacing he’s ever had in his career. No one is paying attention to what his numbers actually tell us about Hayward, and what they’re saying is that Gordon Hayward is, at the very least, one of the top 15 players in the NBA.
Adding Hayward makes the Celtics a much better team than they were last year. Isaiah Thomas can take some of the defensive pressure off Hayward. He’ll see far less double teams than he did last year in Utah which will allow him to flourish on the court. Playing alongside top talent in one of the best basketball cities in the NBA, Gordon Hayward is about to put the NBA on notice. He’s finally in a market and on a team where he can show what kind of a player he really is. With their current roster, expect the Celtics to make a hard push for 60 wins next season and for Hayward to be in the MVP conversation by the end of the year.
Photo: (Sporting News)