With the season almost over, NBA GMs have their minds set on the NBA Playoffs. But for those teams that will be counting ping pong balls instead of playoff victories, the upcoming NBA Draft has many intriguing prospects that need to be recognized. So with March Madness over, Dime contributor Lucas Shapiro continues profiling players and giving them a team that would best fit their talent. Last week was Kansas’ Xavier Henry, so now we’re on to Butler’s Gordon Hayward.
Player Comparisons: Matt Harpring, Luke Walton and Mike Dunleavy Jr.
Gordon Hayward is a white forward standing at 6-9, can shoot and plays college basketball in Indiana. Obviously, the ridiculous Larry Bird comparisons will be overused because of that. Hopefully, it is not overused to the point that the comparisons were given to Adam Morrison back in 2004. However, from an athleticism standpoint, Hayward is fairly similar to Bird. He lacks the lateral quickness and explosiveness of an elite athlete but has a quick first step. This can be attributed to Hayward’s ten-inch growth spurt back in high school. A couple years ago, Hayward was 5-11 and he managed to retain his guard characteristics from this magical transformation. He also managed to keep the same frame as a guard, which is not a good thing. Hayward should look to add 10-15 pounds of muscle for more upper body strength. He may not be a world-class athlete, but Hayward has the tools to get by in the NBA.
Any NBA team likes a tall small forward who can shoot. Why do you think Tim Thomas is still in the League? They also love guys who are mismatches at all times, and Hayward is that type of player. He can be a triple threat due to his great shooting form, sneaky court vision and underrated ball-handling. Another underrated aspect of Hayward’s game is his ability to drive to the basket, which is an important skill for shooters. Whenever a player gets in a shooting slump, the best way to get out of it is to attack the rim. Hayward’s all-around skill set and knowledge of the game make him one of the most fundamentally sound players in this Draft.
The NBA is a league for men. Hayward’s baby-face demeanor and slight frame do not project well for an instant impact in the league. While he has the fundamentals to hang, his body is not ready to handle the physical play. As mentioned before, his lack of upper body strength will be an issue. He will need to land on a team that allows him to solely play small forward since he would have serious problems guarding opposing power forwards. He may have to deal with some adversity due to his aggressive manner. If Hayward can toughen up, he could be this year’s version of Omri Casspi.
Oftentimes, the media stereotypically profiles white players as having limited potential. Luckily, this is not the case for Hayward. He has the potential to be a full-time starter on an NBA roster, but it depends on what system he ends up in. His lack of speed would not fit in well on a team like the Golden State Warriors. A slow-paced tempo will be necessary for Hayward’s classic style of play. It is unlikely that he will become a star in this league, but he could be a high-quality role player. Being a role player is not a bad thing, especially if he lands on a contending team. One of the comparisons that Hayward receives is Matt Harpring. If Hayward could reach the level of play that Harpring had in his first couple seasons with the Utah Jazz, he won’t disappoint any team that drafts him.
Best Fit: San Antonio Spurs*
Richard Jefferson was not the player the Spurs expected him to be before the season. One way of putting the pressure on Jefferson would be to draft a small forward to breath down his neck. Hayward is the perfect player for the Spurs because of his great basketball I.Q. The team loves versatile players who can play multiple positions. With the future of the franchise on Tony Parker‘s shoulders, Hayward would make for a great recipient of Parker’s drive-and-kick game.
*Hayward is projected to be a borderline Lottery pick to a mid-first rounder.
Runner-Up: Minnesota Timberwolves
Obviously, the Timberwolves would not select Hayward with their earliest first round pick, but they could select him with their second one. The Timberwolves were 25th in the league in three-point shooting and could not seem to elect anyone as the official three-point assassin. With Kurt Rambis trying to put in the Triangle Offense, Hayward would be able to fit in perfectly with his great decision making. His shooting stroke, ability to post up players and passing skills could make him overachieve in the NBA. If Ricky Rubio can make his way to Minnesota, the team would have a mean white trio in Kevin Love, Hayward and Rubio. That is not something you see every day in the NBA.
What do you think?
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