The most overlooked player in the league last year was Gordon Hayward as the pick after him (Paul George) got all the attention. Even though Hayward is a better shooter per 36 they averaged almost identical stats as I’ve pointed out in previous articles. They both are great defenders and again Hayward gets absolutely no credit for his defense until this years USA week.
So how good can Hayward be realistically? I’ve heard people call him the next Larry Bird and I’ve heard people call him barely better than Adam Morrison which are obviously on opposite sides of the spectrum. Larry average more than 20 points, 10 rebounds and 4.5 assists per 36 for his entire career. Their build is very similar as they are both around 6’8.5″ and 220 pounds.
Larry averaged 50% from the field and just under 90% from the free throw line. Surprisingly enough Larry was awful from the 3-point line throughout his first 5 seasons at around 25% before moving that up in his 6th year to up above 40%. In his best seasons Larry averaged 28 points, 6 assists and 10 rebounds which he did 3 times. Can Hayward be this good? Probably not but I wouldn’t completely say no.
Hayward first needs to become focused on rebounding. When Hornacek or Lowe told him to go get a rebound he would go do it on the next play but he seems to forget about that aspect of the game often. His passing and shooting both make him able to be as good as Larry as he already shoots better than Larry from 3 and his field goals and free throws he needs to move up by around 6%. Hayward in my opinion is a better defender than Larry as his lateral movements are by far better than most players I’ve seen play.
With Hayward’s usage rate almost certainly going up this year his ability to average 20, 10 and 5 not far off as per 36 he already averaged this past year 17, 5 and 5. His assists I see going up as he has worked on his dribbling over the off-season which will lead to more driving and kicking to guys for layups and dunks as well with the pick and roll he will do with Favors and Kanter. His shooting will easily go up as well as he most likely will be the focal point of the team and he will have the ball in his hands more. Again the only thing that separates him from numbers that Larry put up is his ability to rebound which I definitely think Hayward has in him if he puts his mind to it.
Am I out of my mind? Maybe. Do I have an argument however? Most definitely. Lots of work to put in still for Hayward to even get close to that sort of level but if anybody in the league has Larry’s potential its Gordon Hayward.