Martinelli: The Hayward Factor
The Boston Celtics have had a comeback season this year after a disappointing 2018-19 campaign. At the All Star break the Celtics sit at a very good record of 37-16 which is good for the three-seed in the NBA’s Eastern Conference. Last season at this time the Celtics say at a decent, but far less impressive record of 37-21. Same amount of wins in five extra games. Also that team only went on to win 12 of their final 24 games to round out the regular season quite disappointingly. The 2020 Celtics have a great chance to put up 55-58 wins and compete for the two-seed in the Eastern Conference. Their success has been due to many things, none of more importance this season than the resurgence of Gordon Hayward.
Everyone knows what happened to Hayward in his first game as a Celtic back in 2017, one freak play and his career was changed forever. Hayward was no longer an extremely explosive high flying wing, and his basketball future was unknown after signing a monster contract with Boston. After missing the 2017-18 season, Hayward came back for 2018-19 and looked like a shell of his old self. He averaged extremely pedestrian numbers at 11.5 points, 4.5 rebounds, and 33% 3-point percentage. After last season it seemed as though Hayward was all washed up after his catastrophic leg injury, and Boston’s massive investment in him looked like a huge waste.
That was until something changed this season. The 2019-20 season we have seen a new revitalized Gordon Hayward that hasn’t been seen since the 2016-17 playoffs with the Jazz. He’s much more aggressive, efficient, and confident than he has been since he’s worn a Celtics jersey. Hayward has played in 36 games this season, and the team is 26-10 (.72%) in those games, making the Celtics 11-6 in his absence (64%). Something interesting to note is that in everyone one of the losses he’s played in his +/- has been negative, and for every win it’s been positive. If that doesn’t show how important his impact is I’m not sure what will.
Hayward’s stats in every category are all extremely improved this season also. He’s close to averaging an outrageously rare 50/40/90 season which is 50% from the field, 40% from three, and 90% from the free throw line. This season Hayward is averaging 17.2 points, 6.6 rebounds, and 4.1 assists. All that on 51.4% from the field, 39.3% from three, and 87.3% from the free throw line. His numbers have been fantastic, and that is while being surrounded with great offensive talent such as Jayson Tatum, Kemba Walker, and Jaylen Brown. Anyone that wanted to trade Hayward at the deadline just doesn’t understand his impact on the teams success.
Hayward isn’t just the team's best shooter, but he’s also the best passer on the team. He plays point guard primarily when Kemba doesn’t suit up, and is averaging less than an assist less per game than the starting point guard. Hayward is like a Swiss Army knife, he can go down into the paint and grab you 10+ rebounds or he can’t kill you from the outside and make 5+ threes or he can play point guard and facilitate the entire offense. He’s been comfortable taking a step back from his role in Utah as the main guy, and becoming a 2nd, 3rd, sometimes even 4th option on offense for Boston. His unselfish play is what has made the Celtics a better team, over the last 12 games the Celtics are 10-2 and Hayward has been scoring over 20 points a contest and shooting extremely efficiently. Gordon Hayward has proven this season that he’s far from washed up, he’s actually shown how deserving he is of another sizable contract if anything.
The forward went from being the Celtics biggest liability coming into this season, to becoming one of the biggest reasons for this promising team's success. You can expect Hayward to keep gaining confidence back as time goes on, and to become what he once was. Hayward is only 29 and in his prime, there are many more great years to come from him. The Celtics play the perfect brand of basketball for his style, and they’d would both be stupid to part ways. The Celtics have championship aspirations, and without Gordon Hayward you can throw those in the trash.
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