Utah Jazz: Assessing Gordon Hayward’s Olympic Chances


Can Utah Jazz star Gordon Hayward achieve one of his dreams and make USA Basketball’s final roster for 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro?

Earlier this week, Utah Jazz star Gordon Hayward was picked to participate in 2016 USA Basketball Showcase tour. The tour includes exhibition games and training camps in Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Oakland, Chicago and Houston.

The USA Basketball roster currently stands at 31 and will be trimmed during various phases of the tour. The final number of players in the FIBA Olympics roster will be 12. In 2014, Hayward made it to the final 16 and was one of the last cuts from the team.

Most Jazz fans are hoping for Olympic roster spots for their players, and while most of the team’s international contingent will be on their national team rosters, it’s fair to say that Hayward faces a tough field once again in the American camp.

As I see it, here’s how the roster building process shakes out–

1) Stars Who Might Sit Out Due to Rest or Injuries

Chris Paul, Anthony Davis, Blake Griffin, Mike Conley, Carmelo Anthony

Aside from Conley, these players are virtual locks to play in Rio if they’re willing and able to do so, but injuries may keep them out of action. If Hayward is going to be on the final roster, he’s going to need some of them to forego the Olympics.

If we operate under the assumption that none of the above are in play, we can group the rest of the players into four categories–

2) ‘They Just Need to Say the Word’ Players

If Paul George wants to be on this team, he will be there, in part because of the gruesome injury he suffered during his national duty last time around. It takes guts to show up again, and George deserves the first spot on this team. The rest of these players are superstars and the best of the best.

It is to be noted that four of these top six players play the same position as Hayward (although Durant and LeBron usually play the power forward spot in the international competition).

3) Players Who are All But Confirmed

Let’s call them Mark Cuban’s All-Stars.

Draymond Green fits perfectly as the glue guy for the team. Coach K’s national team always has one blue-collar, do-everything type (Mike Miller, Andre Iguodala, Mason Plumlee). Green is an elite defender, who can guard all five positions, shoot from distance and bring incredible passion to the game, which can rub off on superstars.

Westbrook can play both guard positions in international competition, and there is no answer outside of the USA for his explosive athleticism.

4) The Obligatory Big Men

USA Basketball usually goes with three big men and Cousins was part of last year’s team. With his expanded range and bruising game down low, he is an ideal FIBA player.

FIBA refs can punish hack-a-Drummond as non-basketball fouls. Given that, there is little reason why the best rebounder in the league should not be part of the international squad.

5) Fighting for Spots

That makes it ten players. There are two more slots to spread among rest of the elite. There is going to be at least one more point guard, possibly Kyrie Irving (Sorry John Wall and Damian Lillard– Coach K is a Dukie).

That leaves one more slot for selecting a swingman. Hayward has to battle Klay Thompson, DeMar DeRozan, Jimmy Butler, and Rudy Gay. Ultimately, Thompson probably gets the nod for his shooting and defense. Gay is also a favorite of Coach K, due to his versatility.

Bottom line, the chance of Hayward making it over these players is microscopic.

Next: Analyzing the Utah Jazz Roster

Sorry Hayward peeps, Gordon may not even be one of the final cuts this time around, and that is not a knock on the Jazz star. The field is just incredibly strong this year and the US sends its best to the Olympics. The good news is that Hayward can rest and recover in the summer for the critical season ahead.

For the current Jazz core, it is playoffs or bust next season.