Gordon Hayward Couldn't Make A High School JV Team Right Now So Allow Me To Help

Boston Celtics v Brooklyn Nets

Take 2 minutes to watch Hayward talk after his disappointing performance last night and you can tell right away he’s starting to get more and more frustrated

As we sit here 50 games into the 2018-19 season, the sense I get from fellow Celtics fans is they are running out of patience when it comes to Hayward. I was willing to give him until Thanksgiving before I even really started to pay attention how he was playing given the in jury he suffered, I wanted to let him play for a month or so before I put any stock into what we saw. Well, we’re now months past that and the early returns have not been what we were all hoping for. Those are the facts. You look at this splits in terms of a starter/reserve, and they tell the same story

Starter: 10.2/5.1/2.9 with 38/28% splits and a 18.6% usage

Reserve: 10.9/4.3/3.7 with 43/32% splits and a 19.7% usage

So what the hell does this team do with a player who is not giving them anywhere near the production this team will need if they want to truly reach their potential? The first thing is to take a deep breath. I can understand the frustration because we all had high hopes when Hayward first joined this team, but the one thing that’s not exactly fair are two comparisons I keep seeing made over and over again. The first, comparing him to the Utah version

I shouldn’t need to tell you how ridiculous this is. This is not excusing Hayward’s poor play so don’t take it that way, but this is not an apples to apples comparison and that’s pretty easy to understand. Yes, as the #1 option in UTA where he has a 27% usage rate and 100% health, his numbers were much better. Forget the fact that his last 46 games come post injury and all that other stuff, think about this practically. His role is NOT the same in Boston as it was in Utah. Even if he was 100% healthy, chances are he’s not putting up 22/5 simply because of all the different options this team has. You look closer at his numbers, Hayward has the exact same AST% in BOS as he did in that final year in UTA at 18.5%, he has the exact same rebounding rate at 9.5%, and his Drtg is virtually the same at 107. There are a lot of signs that Hayward is doing similar things to the UTA version, he’s just working with a smaller sample and different role.

Now the one thing we can’t debate is his aggressiveness and shooting is nowhere close, but there’s an explanation for that. Yeah part of it may be mental, but I’m starting to wonder how much of this issue comes from Brad not really using Hayward correctly. The biggest difference we see in this version of Hayward is where he’s getting his shots from. For example, during that last year in UTA, 39% of his FGA were coming from 0-10ft, this year that number is down to 32%. That may not seem like a huge dip but think about it. So far this season we are not seeing Hayward get to a spot on the floor where we previously had success. How much of that is his own limitations and how much of that is how he’s being used? When a player is struggling you would think the plan would be to get him to areas where he can get his confidence up, but that’s not the case here. Hayward’s 3Pr is the highest of his career at 41% which is nearly 10% higher than that final UTA season. The biggest difference in my mind is his lack of getting to the line, where he’s seen his FTr drop from 37% to 25%. Here’s the twist though, he’s earning fouls at the exact same rate as the UTA season. So this isn’t a situation where Hayward isn’t playing into contact, when he does he’s getting the same sort of result pre-injury. The problem is so far his role in this offense has been to camp out behind the three point line where his shot is really struggling. That’s a usage problem in my mind, and while it’s fair to expect him to knock down these open threes at a higher clip, when you’re struggling shooting the basketball it’s not always that simple. The only way to snap out of that is to change your approach.

It’s no surprise we’re seeing this sort of difference with this version of Hayward, he’s driving the ball nearly half as often compared to what he did pre injury. Right now when he gets a high screen, he’s not attacking the rim but instead pulling up from three.


It’s not like these are all bad shots, eventually the Celtics will need Hayward to knock these down, but for a guy who is trying to bust out of a slump and is looking for confidence, it’s clear to see that he’s overly relying on low percentage shots. You look at every game Hayward has played well in this year it’s been a good balance of both threes and aggressive plays tot he paint. Then you have night’s like last night where 4 of his 6 FGA are threes, and that’s not an isolated incident. I think we as fans want Hayward to be aggressive, but I feel like Brad has to actually run plays to put him in the right spot. When you watch him work the P&R in Utah, things feel more aggressive and not just relying on his three point shot


Why can’t we see Brad use him more like this? His passing metrics tell us he’s still creating at that same level, so instead of having him camp out in the corner every possession, give him the ball and let him run the offense. It seems so simple yet we aren’t seeing it when Hayward is out there.

Now the other comparison that really bothers me is when people say “well Paul George came back sooner and was fine, Hayward should too!” If you truly believe that you’re forgetting history. When George first got back after his injury he played the last 6 games of the season and averaged 8.8 points on 36/40% splits. Look familiar? He then had an entire offseason to train and get back into NBA shape. Now compare that to Hayward, who missed all of last year, then had a second procedure that set him back once again. He wasn’t even playing 5 on 5 until like September, and given that this is not the summer and he can’t work out 24/7 at 100% healthy, Hayward has had to regain his confidence/skill on the fly. Even in that first full year back when George averaged 23 a game, he still only shot 41/37% so it wasn’t exactly “back” either. He just so happened to be the #1 option on that IND team with a 30% usage rate. I would imagine that if Hayward was playing 35 minutes a night with a 30% usage rate his numbers would look a whole lot closer to the UTA version.

For that reason, I do not want to hear about Paul George when it comes to Hayward, they are two completely different cases with different roles and situations.

You add all this up, and this is not a hopeless situation. I’m seeing Celtics fans give up on Hayward and want him traded/cut/whatever and I just don’t get it. Yes, his returns have not been acceptable as of yet, but it’s not as if things can’t be adjusted. I would think a guy deserves more than 50 games and perhaps actually a full summer training before we run him out of town. Who knows what he’ll look like in April if the Celtics can figure out how to use him better, and I know he makes a shit ton of money but the injury changed everything. If he turns it around come Spring, who cares what he looks like right now? Everything we’re seeing from Hayward in terms of his struggles are correctable, we just have to deal with the ups and downs it’s going to take to get there.

I would just say look at Jaylen Brown and how he started the season. He struggled, had some injuries, got healthy and fought through it. He’s turned his season around and is proving that it’s worth being patient with. Hayward has a long way to go there’s no denying that, but a simple tweak here and there will make a gigantic difference. This is every bit a Brad problem as it is a Hayward problem, but it is not time to give up on Hayward. Just breathe.