The book on Gordon Hayward was written before he ever played in the NBA: good at many things, great at none.
Many predicted that the ninth overall pick of the 2010 draft would be limited by a flat, flashless game. At best, it would take the Jazz rookie years to make a mark in a profession dominated by individuality - a league filled with players who carve out a niche and receive a hefty paycheck by perfecting one trait. Hayward was a bland throwback, some said, and the boos that surrounded his selection on draft day were a painful reminder.
Seventy-eight games into his first season, the former Butler standout is creating a name for himself with the same assets that analysts and fans initially used to pick him apart. And after single-handedly carrying Utah to an 86-85 road victory against the Los Angeles Lakers on Tuesday, one of the NBA's most uncompromising critics offered nothing but praise for the 21-year-old who limited him to 6-of-18 shooting.
"I'm very, very fond of him," Los Angeles guard Kobe Bryant said. "He's a very skilled, all-around player. I think he's going to have a very bright future in this league."
The future is now for Hayward.
He has averaged 20.5 points, 4.5 rebounds and 4.5 assists during his last two games, shooting 60.7 percent from the field and 57.1 percent behind the 3-point line. But while the sparkling numbers can be attributed to everything from more consistent minutes and an increased role in the Jazz's offense to his own growing confidence, a deeper change has been at the core of Hayward's late-season surge. The rookie originally pegged and drafted as a workman-like small forward has shown the potential to be a dynamic shooting guard.
Fast, strong and accurate, Hayward has been at his best on the wing. He has drilled 3-pointers, blown by defenders off the dribble for layups and dunks, pulled up for mid-range jumpers, and swiftly dished off to teammates as defenses converged. The variation was in full display versus the Lakers, when Hayward rolled off 10 fourth-quarter points to help Utah end an eight-game losing streak.
As Hayward evolves, his game changes
Salt Lake Tribune | Apr 7