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Posts Tagged ‘Gordon Hayward’

The Utah Jazz are unquestionably a worse team on July 8th than they were on June 30th. Barring an unforeseen circumstance, they will be a worse team in 2017-18 than they were in 2016-17. The Jazz lost their best player, but they did not lose their most valuable one. There’s a difference, and that difference will stabalize the franchise for the next 4 years.

An organization’s most valuable player and leader imposes his will on his team’s style of play. The 2016-17 Utah Jazz battled through injuries to win 51 games and advanced to the NBA’s second round as a top-notch defensive-minded group that suffocated teams defensively and on the boards while scoring and executing efficiently if not proficiently. That signature belongs more to the playing style of Rudy Gobert than the since departed Gordon Hayward.

It was Rudy who publicly called out his teammates with Utah mired in a 1-4 tailspin and fresh off a blowout loss in LA to their eventual 1st-round foe. It was Rudy who backed up those comments by immediately posting 20 points, 19 rebounds and 5 blocks to jumpstart a 7-2 finish entering the playoffs. And it was Rudy who led the Jazz in wins shares and finished in the NBA’s top-5 in both offensive and defensive efficiency ratings. The Jazz won’t need to undergo a significant transformation into Rudy’s team because they were already assimilating towards that even with Gordon Hayward.

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It should also be said it was Hayward who carried the bulk of the load at the heaviest of times in the postseason – Game 5 & 7 road wins in LA in which he was the best player on either team and when Rudy battled foul trouble returning from injury. While Hayward may never be a #1 player on a championship team, losing a top 15-20 player at perhaps the NBA’s most important position significantly hurts Utah’s on-court product.

With Ricky Rubio flanked by lefties Joe Ingles and Rodney Hood, the Jazz will have no problems initiating their sets but will miss the luxury of getting the ball to Hayward on their 2nd and 3rd integration of screen-roll with the shot clock winding down. Teams will defend Gobert differently in screen-roll and show out less forcing Rubio to pull-up from mid-range or get into the paint (where Rubio’s also struggled converting) before dishing/kicking out.

Fortunately, Gobert has consistently advanced his offensive game from a 7-1 center who struggled catching and going straight up to a ferocious finisher rolling/diving to the rim to a cognizant passer capable of flashing nifty vision to look weakside and pass on the move. Another season of adaptation and growth offensively for #27 is not out of the question and surrounding Rubio/Gobert with shooting (Hood, Ingles, Joe Johnson?) should keep the lane open for Rubio to find Gobert at the rim.

The Jazz will miss Hayward’s ability to score off-the-bounce, his defensive rebounding when Utah went small, and newfound off-ball cutting abilities the most. While Quin Snyder’s system oft relied on Hayward in a leading role – the offense (not much different from the free-flowing ones most teams in today’s league run) did not revolve around him. Hayward had begun to show a developing post game to punish smaller defenders switching onto him and it would not be surprising if part of Boston’s pitch to Hayward revolved around ways Brad Stevens would get Gordon the ball in scoring position earlier in the shotclock (which would be more about stroking a player’s ego than anything wrong with Utah’s offense).

Perhaps more so than Stevens’ coaching, playing with an alpha dog personality in Isaiah Thomas will help relieve pressure off Hayward in terms of 4th-quarter scoring attention and most importantly providing selective leadership. Hayward was looked upon as a leader in Utah because he was the Jazz’s best and most prominant player, not because he consistently exhibited the leadership qualities championship contenders require. In Boston, Isaiah can set the tone and Hayward can pick his spots – and both Boston and Hayward should be all the better for it.

The move is not without risk for Gordon. In leaving his Salt Lake media bubble often devoid of criticism, he’s pushing a restart button and putting his NBA legacy on the line. By the time he was first-round fodder in Brooklyn, NBA fans quickly forgot how dominant and elite Deron Williams was in his Utah days. Hayward will also need to produce under the brightest lights on the biggest stages or else he too will suffer the same media pressure Deron felt in Brooklyn. If he doesn’t, he may find himself in Danny Ainge’s asset collection by the time he’s ready to opt-out as a 10-year vet with a Jayson Tatum or Jaylen Brown ready to assume stature as a new face of the franchise.

Utah has their own future to evaluate. Surrounding Rudy, Ingles and Rubio – the Jazz have several veterans (Johnson, Favors, Burks) who (if healthy) are talented enough to play major roles and contribute to a playoff push. They also have a slew of younger players (Exum, Hood, and Mitchell) who they’d also be best served to give extended minutes to in order to properly evaluate and project their fit into the organization’s vision moving forward. Whether the Jazz ultimately toe the middle ground or shift their plans towards one of those groups will depend on how the first 3 months of the regular season goes but it’s worth mentioning a couple of those veterans also represent expiring contracts who could net a valuable asset that someone (a contender looking to bolster a playoff push or big-market team looking to clear 2018 capspace) may be willing to part with at the deadline as cap space gradually becomes a premium across the league.

From a business standpoint, the Jazz feel pressure to win. They’ve invested heavily in player and facility improvement and are depending on an income boost (raised ticket prices and enhanced club/box seating in addition to the NBA’s TV money) that is reliant upon winning games. Fans would rather buy tickets to sit on green hard plastic seats to watch a winner than black cushioned seats watching a loss. With a fanbase both reeling and galvanized by Hayward’s departure, this is one of the rare occurrences a drop back to a 7th/8th-seed would emotionally feel like a successful season. Finishing 9th or 10th in the ultra-competitive West isn’t out of the question either and given the inbalance between the two conferences, could result in a 1st-rnd pick as high as 9th or 10th.

One organization to both study and learn from would be the Portland Trailblazers sans LaMarcus Aldridge. Also a 51-win team in 2014-15, Aldridge’s departure paved the way for CJ McCollum to assume a starring role alongside Damian Lillard. While that dynamic duo is a bonafide big away from being a 55-win team – what’s locked Portland into NBA purgatory (44 and 41 wins the last two seasons) was overpaying on marginal role players. Allen Crabbe, Evan Turner, Mo Harkless, and Meyers Leonard each have 3 years left on their deals at an average salary of $14.4 million. Having over $56 million tied up in that foursome for 2017-18 was miscalculated.

Utah was right to re-sign Ingles but must be very meticulous in evaluating Hood and Exum’s next contract. Although the hope is there that Exum or Mitchell becomes a star and Hood a consistent scoring option – the Jazz need to view Rudy’s supporting cast with the mindset they’re a significant acquisition/trade away from getting back on track towards contention. With that approach – assets and flexibility are key.

The Jazz are good enough to win 36-46 games and fighting like hell to make the playoffs for the first three months with the option to pivot and trade a starter/rotation player for a future asset before the deadline would seem to be the most flexible approach that could provide a pleasing mix of internal development and immediate competitiveness.

Rudy Gobert is under contract until 2021 and the Jazz need to operate like they have a 3-4 year window to build a contender around him even if it means the worst-case scenario is passively missing the playoffs in year one. If they’re ahead of schedule and they’re right in the thick of things come February, all the better and standing pat could certainly make sense as well.

While the strategy for constructing an NBA contender varies between homebuilding and flipping houses, a hybrid model of both is necessary when you’re a small-market team already with a major piece in place.

The Jazz enter the new season with an offensive void but still with a foundation and future of options and hope. That’s what happens when you retain your most valuable player.

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In today’s B.S. Report, Grantland’s Bill Simmons said that believes the Celtics should and will make a run at Gordon Hayward. The entire podcast can be heard here, with the Hayward conversation beginning around the 34:10-mark.

Hayward Future

Here is the Hayward discussion between Simmons and Grantland’s Zach Lowe:

Simmons: “The Celtics made a sneaky trade over the weekend – they got rid of Courtney Lee’s contract. It’s now doable for the Celtics to make a run at somebody this summer, with a contract starting at I think – depending on where the cap is – it could be like $10 million, $11 million something like that. I think Gordon Hayward is a target for them and I don’t know if it happens next month before the deadline or it’s something where they just plan on making a giant restricted  offer and hoping Utah doesn’t match or whatever…but I think Gordon Hayward is somebody that they want.”

Lowe: “It wouldn’t surprise me, Hayward is the one restricted guy that I look at and say ‘You might be able to get this guy if you really love him, you’re confident that his sort of decline statistically this season is just because he’s on a horrible team where he has to do too much and he’s young – and you throw a huge offer at him…he’s the one guy of the restricted free agents you might be able to get.”

Simmons: “Hayward is also young, Hayward turns 24 in March and as you said not having a great season, not having a good shooting season his threes went in the tank this year he’s 31% right now, last year he was 42%. Umm, but again he’s on a terrible team, it’s not a well-coached team, I would say going from Ty Corbin to Brad Stevens would be a slight upgrade especially the way Stevens knows how to use him and I think the Celtics could construct an offer and get to, you know starting at $13 million that could probably get to like $58 million for 4 years and that puts Utah in a really interesting spot because…where-where did they – they didn’t even want to pay him what – 4 for $45 (million) as an extension? Something like that or did he want the max?”

Lowe: “I don’t think the figures ever came out, I mean th-they, umm I remember Marc Stein tweeting something that rumors that Hayward’s team demanded the same contract that Paul George got or a max-contract were not true, but I don’t know that the exact numbers ever came out and this year you know at the very least his value is sort of plateauing he’s not playing into – yet – he’s not playing himself into a massive deal.”

Simmons: “If you’re Utah would you consider trading him?”

Lowe: *deep sigh* …”I mean I’d consider anything if I were Utah.”

Simmons: “Right, but let’s say Phoenix said ‘Hey we have a lot of first-round picks, we like Gordon Hayward a lot, would you like some of our first-round picks? Then you could be reeeally bad, now you’re guaranteed – we’re taking only your kind of competent scorer other than Trey Burke off your roster.”

Lowe: “But I’ve already got two Golden State first-round picks, now maybe those aren’t going to end up being very good but one of them is in 2017 so atleast it has the possibility of being very good. I don’t know that – I might think that Utah might think the other way where, where you know ‘I’m just going to hold onto these assets and – including Hayward and try to see maybe down the line if there’s a superstar or a star that becomes available but…it’s hard when you’re Utah because you can’t trade for a superstar that has one or two years left on his contract because you run the risk of, you know he’s just going to go out of town.”

Simmons: “If you were the Celtics, would you say ‘Hey Utah, you know that pick we have – it’s the worst [least favorable] pick we have of Brooklyn or Atlanta – we’ll give you that pick right now for Gordon Hayward. It might get in the lottery. You can have it right now. Straight up. That would be interesting.”

Lowe: “Yeah…”

Simmons: “I think if I’m Utah I do that.”

Lowe: “If I were the Celtics I would do that in a second, I think Utah would demand more and I don’t know what the Celtics have that they’re interested in they’re a Jeff Green team and I don’t know that they are or not.”

Simmons: “Mmm I don’t know how many ‘Jeff Green teams’ there are out there at this point – I really like Gordon Hayward though and I think him and Lance [Stephenson] are the two fascinating [free agent] guys, Melo obviously is interesting and I think Chicago has to be considered – anything Carmelo conversation now Chicago has to be brought up because if they amnesty Boozer they’re on the road to having enough cap space to make him a huge offer.”

For good measure, Simmons and Lowe also briefly touched on Jeff Hornacek.

Simmons: “Phoenix is 20-12, I saw them in person last week and they just knocked my socks off how well-coached they were.”

Simmons on watching the Suns in person: “You would love it…you would have to…have a cigar afterward you would be so excited about Hornacek.”

Lowe: “Well they’re delightful on television and boy that’s the biggest mistake we’ve made in my short time at Grantland is ranking them toward the bottom of our league-pass watch-ability rankings.”

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On October 21, 2013 Marc Stein tweeted that: “Hayward has tons of fans in front offices around the league. Will draw tons of interest next July if he makes it to restricted free agency

That goes in conjuncture with what Peter Vescey tweeted on November 21, 2013: “According to a GM, the Suns will do everything possible this summer to sign Gordon Hayward to an unmatchable offer sheet.

Not counting Boston’s 2014 Draft Pick cap holds, assuming they renounce their rights on Jordan Crawford, don’t pick up Keith Bogan’s 2014-15 salary, and for now slotting Avery Bradley’s $3.2 million qualifying offer in – the Celtics will be around $48 million with 8 players – certainly possessing the wiggle-room to make one additional dump-deal and present Hayward an attractive 8-figure offer.

Although re-signing RFA Eric Bledose will eat up a large chunk of it, the Suns also project to have the cap room (although approximate figures vary due to fluctuating cap holds for 2014 draft picks they may or may not receive, along with a $6.8 million player option Channing Frye possesses).

So what do you think is Gordon Hayward’s free agency value is, and should the Jazz (or any team) meet/exceed it with the belief that a new coach and upgraded supporting cast can rebuild Hayward’s shooting efficiency – or should the Jazz preemptively trade him to get value in return if they think he’ll get an offer they won’t be willing to match?

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Jazz at Magic 12-18-13Final Score: Jazz 86, Magic 82

Player of the Game: Trey Burke scored a career-high 30 points go along with 8 assists and 7 rebounds in 40 minutes of play. He shot an impressive 12-20 from the field, 2-2 from the FT line and 4-8 from behind the arc while only turning the basketball over twice. The Jazz were +21 in Burke’s 40:28 minutes and -17 in the 7:32 he was on the bench.

Trey Burke 12 Field Goals:
6:46 1st-Qtr – Left-wing catch&shoot transition three.
5:09 1st-Qtr – Pull-up 18-foot banker from off high screen-roll with Favors.
0:03 1st-Qtr – Pull-up 17-footer on high screen-roll with Kanter.
3:58 2nd-Qtr – Left-corner catch&shoot three off ball rotation.
3:29 2nd-Qtr – Uncontested run-out layup (from Hayward).
2:19 2nd-Qtr – Transition catch&shoot right-wing three (from Hayward).
10:07 3rd-Qtr – Top-of-the-circle catch&shoot three (from Hayward).
8:16 3rd-Qtr – 20-footer off side pick&roll with Favors.
1:53 3rd-Qtr –  14-foot floater off glass on high screen-roll with Favors.
0:01 3rd-Qtr – 2-on-1 fastbreak that Burke kept himself by faking a behind-the-back pass then converting a hanging up&under reverse layup maneuvering around E-Twaun Moore. The proper play was to pass the ball to Burks on the left-wing for a layup but Burke finished with spectacular ball-fake/layup so I could only stay mad at him for about 5-tenths of a second.
6:34 4th-Qtr – Side pick&roll with Favors (screening baseline) for 15-foot floater.
3:45 4th-Qtr – Pump-fake dribble-in 16-footer from Hayward running a side pick&roll.

As you can see of Burke’s 12 baskets – 5 came via pick&roll, 4 came in transition and 3 came playing off-the-ball. The Magic defend screen-roll as I’ve diagrammed in great detail here, by going over on the screen and dropping the big back into the lane – where you’re funneling the ball-handler and/or screener into taking the mid-range jumper.

Trey Burke assists:
11:47 1st-Qtr – Hayward 22-foot pindown jumper.
10:48 1st-Qtr – Ball-rotation and swing pass to Jefferson for right-corner 3.
6:18 1st-Qtr – Transition pass ahead to Hayward for catch&shoot 18-footer.
0:53 1st-Qtr – Side pick&pop to Jeremy Evans for 18-foot baseline jumper.
5:26 3rd-Qtr – One-hand off-the-bounce bullet pass to Marvin for layup.
1:23 3rd-Qtr – Fastbreak pass to Hayward for layup.
7:45 4th-Qtr – Hayward 16-foot baseline jumper.
1:14 4th-Qtr – Hayward right-wing 19-footer off curl/pindown.

Of Burke’s 8 assists, 3 came in transition (in a low-scoring game the Jazz finished with 17 fastbreak points) and 5 of the 8 went to Gordon Hayward. Also only one of Burke’s assists came via the pick&roll although 5 of his baskets did – which again reflects what an Indiana/Portland-style screen-roll (which Corbin has finally begun consistently using) tries to do – which is take away the screener rolling to the basket and take away deep penetration that leads to direct layups or drive&kick threes. Favors had a couple pick&pop jumpers he missed and Evans made the one, but the Magic wanted to force Trey Burke to beat them with his mid-range game and last night Burke made them pay.

See A Different Game

The Jazz were able to create open looks thanks to Gordon Hayward’s hard and smart utilization of off-ball screens.

1. Here the Jazz run a little stagger-screen action for Hayward. Hayward’s man (#5 Victor Oladipo) trails, giving Hayward the green-light to curl the entire way around.

Jazz at Magic 12-18-13 #10

2. Hayward curls hard off the screens with Oladipo still trailing from behind – which forces Orlando to sag down to cut off his driving lane. The result is a simple kickout back to Burke at the top of the key for a three which he made (or a swingpass to the weakside if RJ’s man rotates). If they don’t drop down from the top but the big still shows out (like #9 Nikola Vucevic does) then Hayward can look for the big diving to the rim.

Smart basketball is about reading and reacting and when the Magic tried to defend this set differently – Hayward still made them pay.

1. Here Hayward’s man (#22 Tobias Harris) tries to shoot the gap.

Jazz at Magic 12-18-13 #11

2. Hayward reads this and rather continue his curl – the on-sight adjustment is to fade. Harris is caught going under and Hayward drains the 18-foot jumper to put Utah up 4 ultimately seal the win. These are the types of mid-range shots you don’t mind because they’re wide-open, in rhythm, and give the offense a positional advantage while putting pressure on the defense.

Film Room

Here are the sorted plays I mentioned above – beginning with:
1. Trey Burke’s pick&roll mid-range scores (watch how Orlando’s bigs dare him to shoot).
2. Hayward’s hard/smart movement utilizing off-ball screens (watch how the curl sets up scenarios where a simple kickout pass leads to a three/ball-rotation).
3. Burke/Hayward Transition Opportunities

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Odds and Ends

  • Trey Burke recorded the first 30-point game by a Jazz point guard since Deron Williams scored 39 points against the Spurs on January 26, 2011.
  • Utah’s 86 points are the fewest they’ve scored in a win since February 1, 2013 in an 86-77 victory over Portland.
  • Utah’s lineup of Trey Burke, Alec Burks, Gordon Hayward, Derrick Favors and Enes Kanter played 4:30 together and were +5 over Orlando during that time.

Alec Burks – Forever Young

During last night’s game Peter Novak began tweeting out classic lovesong lyrics with Trey Burke’s name in them. (Sidenote: Peter’s is one of my favorite twitter follows, follow him for a nice dose of Jazz-related intelligent humor, snark, sarcasm, common-sense, and salary cap expertise).

In the spirit of Jazz lyrics, I thought I’d share my own – set to Forever Young by Rod Stewart.

Alec Burks – Forever Young
May Ty Corbin be your coach every day you wake
May your substitute check in after every drive you make
And may you grow to be a starter, vet-er-an and old
Who’s kept in the lineup no matter if he’s hot or cold
But if you score and play the same
In Ty’s heart you will remain
Forever young, forever young, forever young, forever young

May poor fortune be with you, may Ty’s job security be strong
May you always be blamed no matter if it’s right or wrong
And may you never start a game
And in Ty’s mind you will remain
Forever young, forever young, forever young, forever young
For-ever young

For-ever young

And when you finally leave the Jazz we’ll be doubting that we served you well
Why you never started here no one can even tell
But whatever team you choose
Dennis Lindsey wants Ty to help him lose
Forever young, forever young, forever young, forever young
For-ever young

The official music video is a bit dull, but in the Jazz re-make I see Jeff Hornacek singing this to Alec as they both ride in the back of the pickup immediately after he accepted the Phoenix Suns’ head coaching position, with Boler, Harpring, and Sidney Lowe making cameos in the motorcycle gang.

(And yes I know Ty has played Burks a lot more in the past few games while giving Jefferson fewer minutes and the lyrics I wrote are only like 10% serious. Well, maybe 25%.)

The Final Word

In his first 15 games Trey Burke had alot of great plays and multiple very good games – but last night it all came together as he turned in one of the best performances not only for the Jazz but in all of the NBA. Coming into the game he was shooting just 39% on two-point FG’s but he made 8-12 last night, to go along with 4-8 from behind the arc. He showcased his complete offensive repertoire, his passing ability, a beyond-his-years understanding of the pick&roll and he again took care of the basketball (only 2 turnovers and averaging just 1.4 for the season).

Burke is receiving major playing time as a rookie and he has made the most of it, continuing to develop and improve right before our eyes. I don’t think anyone is still recommending that Burke shouldn’t start simply because John Stockton didn’t start immediately nearly 30 years ago.

It’s also important to understand that the Jazz are still a team with a 7-21 record. If you claim the Jazz’s 1-14 start is irrelevant because of their early-season injuries, then you also have to say 4 of Utah’s 7 wins that came against opponents missing key players – Chicago (without Derrick Rose), Houston (without Chandler Parsons), Sacramento (without Rudy Gay) and now Orlando (without Aaron Affalo) – also deserve an asterisk.

With Burke back the Jazz are clearly playing better offensively (although even with Burke’s brilliance they struggled with a 37-point 2nd-half), played well defensively last night – and have started to resemble the fun, exciting and competitive team most hoped they would be entering the season. That doesn’t erase the trainwreck start Utah had to the season, but that reprieve seems to be a growing sentiment from those inside the organization that is reflective of the past several Jazz seasons. The problem is once you start making excuses – you lower the surrounding expectations, accountability and standards.

I feel fortunate the Jazz have a high-profile rookie like Trey Burke who not only has the talent and confidence in his ability – but most importantly is someone who’s been a winner on every level and is used to being on the right side of the scoreboard. I don’t expect the Jazz to win 3 out of 5 for the remainder of the season, but with Burke leading the way I do feel confident losing won’t be something the players will come to accept or excuse. Jazz fans have big goals in mind for this team down the road, but most importantly – so does Trey Burke.

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