In his last three games off the bench Gordon Hayward hasn’t been amazing but he’s been solid. He’s posted 11.7 points, 5.3 rebounds, 3.7 assists, and a steal/block on 46.2/33.3/100 shooting splits. While I get it, only three games (2 of which against the lowly Knicks and Hawks), I think it’s a step in the right direction. In comparison to his 38.9/28.3/81.8 splits from his first 16 games, it’s a welcomed improvement. He hit a big three in the corner down the stretch in the Knicks game where I think he got some confidence back.
Seeing the ball go in is everything and especially in a big moment like that. It means a lot for confidence sake when you see a big shot go in. Albeit a small sample size, this is the best he has looked all season long and hopefully it continues. The past couple of games he’s also looked way more confident in his jumpshot, which I think is huge for him as his jumper has been a large part of his struggles early on. Things will continue to get even better as he’s starting to realize that he has to be more aggressive. Kyrie even tried to get the point through to Gordon, that he is still one of the better players in the league, and that he should trust his game.
In these passed three games Gordon is tied with Kyrie for first in offensive rating at 117. He also is posting a similarly impressive 101.2 defensive rating, combining for a net rating of +15.7, which is first on the team. What’s important about this short stretch for Hayward is that he is playing GOOD basketball and contributing (he was, for lack of a better word, an ulcer to start the season and I’m all set with watching that version of Gordon Hayward). It’s important for him to realize that even though he had such a horrific injury and an arduous recovery, he’s still an all-star level player. It’s all mental in my opinion and until he takes it straight to the basket, strong on a fastbreak, and finishes at the rim, he won’t be all the way back. He hasn’t done it yet and usually passes out of the opportunity to do so. A huge part of his game was his ability to go hard to the basket and he’s lost that early on in the season. Look at these dunks from Hayward’s past and how explosive he was.
Look on the internet as well, theres a ton more, he got UP. I’m not saying he’ll get all the way back to this type of athleticism, but it’s not outlandish to say he could get around 75-80% of it back. That’d be all he needs, he can do without the dunks. He’s big and if he can drive hard to the basket, he’ll get his points. He’s far too talented and too physically gifted to just lose it all from a broken bone.
Kyrie was spot on saying he’s passing too much. He’s not trusting his offense and passing it off to others. If this team is going to be the best they can be Gordon has to get close to his form before the injury. I think he will and this short stretch of solid play is something to keep track of coming up. This is a prime opportunity for him to get re-acclimated completely and continue to play good basketball, leading his way back to his pre-injury form.
Photo: Christopher Evans
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