Commissioner Gordon. G-Time. Too Big Yo. Tall Justin Bieber. Such is the nomenclature of nicknames attributed to young rapper, pro gamer and basketball star Gordon Hayward, who’s in the midst of his 3rd NBA season. And while it might not take much to live up to such horrific nicknames, titles like “next best thing”, “all-star” and “team leader” are a little harder to live up to.
Among some critics, Hayward has yet to live up to his lottery selection in the draft.
Many fans and analysts were underwhelmed when Hayward was drafted. I heard quite a few people upset that we hadn’t addressed the big man issue by drafting Cole Aldrich. CBS Sports criticized the selection, asserting that “you don’t draft winner’s at 9, you draft talent” – implying the Jazz solely drafted Hayward because of his NCAA finals run with Butler. Not, because, he’s good at like, playing basketball or anything – never mind how phenomenally he tested across the board during pre-draft workouts. Fox Sports post-draft analysis implied that the Jazz would have been better off with…wait for it…Luke Babbitt.
Color me crazy, but I’m just glad the front office weren’t the ones who went for Ekpe Udoh with the 6th overall pick or Wesley Johnson with the 4th. But what about Paul George, who went right after Hayward to the Indiana Pacers at pick #11? The Jazz certainly could have taken him first. I’m reminded of this fact time and time again by disgruntled fans. “He’s an all-star, just look at his stats”, they declare. “They tell the whole story”.
Actually, they don’t.
Even so, when you take a look at Paul George’s stats and Gordon Hayward’s stats, you probably shouldn’t completely ignore minutes per game before you start comparing players. And the simple fact is that that George is netting 37.9 mpg versus Hayward’s 26.6. I’m not great at math, but I’d say that’s about an 11 minute discrepancy.
Fortunately, I have a very good friend who can help adjust the chasm in minutes played so we can adequately compare the two. His name is basketball-reference.com, and the tool I used is nothing more that stats adjusted per 36 minutes, along with shooting percentages and each contestant’s player efficiency rating (PER).
Let’s take a look:
Paul George is clearly the better rebounder and has a slightly higher PER. It doesn’t show up on the stat sheet, but I’d say he’s a bit better on the defensive end as well. He also gets about half an assist more per 36 minutes. On the other hand, Hayward takes the cake in points scored as well as field goal, three point and free throw percentage. Perhaps most surprising to me is that he gets to the free throw line almost twice as much – and invaluable tool.
Overall, there really isn’t a huge gap in production between the two. I hate to say it, but I believe the fact that Gordon simply doesn’t look like an athletic super-freak creates a small bias. I’ve had moments of doubt regarding Hayward – that’s just the fan in me. But his play this year, especially since January, has restored the hope instilled in me when we first drafted the guy. So call him what you will; I believe he can be something special in this league.