A look back at what was a breakout 2016-17 season for Utah Jazz star Gordon Hayward.
The concept of “getting better every year” is the ultimate goal for any individual that aspires to improve at whatever it is they do. From athletes to accountants and everything in between, true professionals strive to improve each passing season. Planning, determination, and good old-fashioned hard work play crucial roles in becoming their best selves.
With the ultimate goal of becoming the best at what they do in mind, they move forward, and try to get to the next level. For Utah Jazz forward Gordon Hayward, this year was about just that; improving and getting to the next level.
The 2016-17 season was the best of Gordon Hayward’s career. He notched career highs in several statistical categories, including points, rebounds, three-pointers, free-throw percentage, field goal percentage, win shares and box plus-minus numbers. These numbers translated into the Jazz’ most successful season in years, including a playoff berth and advancing to the second round in the Western Conference.
These career highs were not so much an explosion, but rather a gradual becoming that ultimately got Hayward to the next level. Hayward’s success was a result of minor changes and tweaks to his mechanics and movement.
Hayward on his development —
"“I think I’ve taken a step forward this season, and it’s because I have improved upon a lot of the little things in my game. My footwork is better this year. My ability to finish in the lane has been better this year as well, and I think a lot of that is attributed to the work that I did this summer on footwork, on balance, and on core stuff in the weight room. That’s boosted me up two or three points this year that I didn’t have last year. Any time you spend hours and days and weeks trying to add something to your game, and you’re able to apply it in a real game and have success, it doesn’t get much better. So to see all that hard work I put in during the summer be recognized and rewarded was a cool feeling.”"
Climbing the Scoring Summit
Hayward just completed his seventh year in the NBA, and accomplished a rare feat while doing so. Since coming into the league in 2010, Hayward has increased his points per game in each and every season. Starting at 5.4 points per game in 2010, he jumped to 11.8,14.1,16.2,19.3,19.7 and then posted a career high 21.9 in 2016-17. During that time, only Kawhi Leonard and Jimmy Butler accomplished the same feat of consistent improvement by upping points per game in each passing season.
Hayward had his most efficient year shooting the basketball since his limited rookie year, with a 53 percent effective field goal percentage. He increased his three-point shooting percentage to nearly 40 percent, and his free-throw percentage to 85 percent, which translated to easy, quick points in the box score.
Hayward’s offensive efficiency this season put him in some pretty good company, and put him in conversation for All-NBA talks. He was one of seven players to average more than 20 points per game, shooting at least 46% on less than 16 shots a game. Hayward’s efficient game helped the Jazz to 50-wins and put them on the map this season.
Hayward’s jump over the 20-point mark this season was enough to catch the national eye, as well as some high-scoring games that lit up twitter and other social media sources. Including the playoffs, Hayward had 16 games where he scored more than 30 points. This included a career-high 40 points in a home playoff game against the Clippers, when Hayward went off in the first quarter scoring 21 points out of the gate.
Hayward showed, contrary to what many initial scoReaching the Ceilinguts and executives first doubted him for, a strong ability to carry a team offensively this season.
Becoming an All-Star
Being named an All-Star is not a small accomplishment in today’s NBA. In a league dominated by superstars, spots on the All-Star team are extremely limited. When Gordon Hayward was named an All-Star reserve by NBA coaches in February, he became the first Jazz player in six years to do so (Deron Williams). Hayward expressed his pride and gratification of being named an All-Star in his personal blog.
"“To be recognized as an All-Star is an incredible feeling. It’s rewarding. It was definitely one of my goals going into the summer.”"
Hayward represented the Jazz in New Orleans, and made the organization and fans proud. He graced the highlights with a few big dunks in the All-Star game, as well as came in second place in the Skills Challenge to the Knicks’ Kristaps Porzingis.
Despite being in talks for an All-NBA selection, Hayward missed out on that elite accreditation, and will hope to make the selection in the years to come.
Reaching the Ceiling
With new levels of performance and career-highs under his belt, what is next for Gordon Hayward? Putting aside his free-agent decision this summer, Gordon Hayward is going to be a great NBA player for years to come. There is still plenty of room in his game that can be developed and fine-tuned to make him even more of an effective player.
Hayward has yet to develop a consistent “back-to-the-basket” game, and has plenty of room to expand his shot selection in the post. At 6-foot-8 with a strong, athletic build, Hayward could add a dynamic post-game to his repertoire, continuing to evolve and improve as good players do.
More from The J-Notes
- With the FIBA World Cup over for Simone Fontecchio, it’s clear he deserves minutes for the Utah Jazz
- Best, Worst and Most likely scenarios for the Utah Jazz this season
- Hoops Hype downplays the significance of the Utah Jazz’s valuable assets
- 3 Utah Jazz players who have the most to gain or lose this season
- Former Utah Jazz forward Rudy Gay is a free agent still and it shouldn’t surprise anyone
Now that Hayward has a 50-win season and some playoff experience on his resume, the sky is the limit for what he can do for a team. He proved this season that he can lead a team, both on the court and off. He showed he can carry a team in the playoffs and get those tough buckets late in the game.
Gordon Hayward is done proving that he belongs in the top ranks of NBA forwards. He can now start to settle in as an elite player and should be a force to be reckoned with going forward, whether that is with the Utah Jazz or another fortunate franchise.