This past summer, Gordon Hayward and the Boston Celtics met their expiration date in their relationship as the former All-Star forward signed with the Charlotte Hornets on a massive four-year, $120 million contract. Initially, the move looked a bit puzzling for Charlotte, as they may have just overpaid for a player past his prime and no longer of All-Star caliber like he once was. However, Hayward has proved the doubters wrong to this point of the 2021 year, putting up some of the best numbers of his career. While things did not turn out how he may have liked in Boston, is Charlotte Hornets Gordon Hayward a rejuvenation of a career that has stalled for far too long?
Is Charlotte Hornets Gordon Hayward An All-Star?
Hayward’s Disappointing Celtics Tenure
As a Boston Celtics fan, watching this new Hornets Gordon Hayward is bittersweet to say the least. For a franchise that endorses itself as being “lucky”, Hayward’s tenure with the Celtics was anything but that. His constant string of bad luck over his three years will forever leave fans wondering what could have been. There were flashes of his former Utah Jazz self at various points, especially in the 2019-2020 season, but his momentum would be immediately halted due to a few reoccurring injuries.
Dissecting Hayward’s misfortunes could take hours to breakdown. In a nutshell, it became clear that Hayward was not going to return to his All-Star form in Boston. Not that he could not reach that ceiling with his play on the floor, but Boston is a big market. Their timeline with budding superstars Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown getting the spotlight was going to mask Hayward’s contributions that did not always turn up in the stat sheet.
Hayward had a rocky relationship with Celtics fans during his three years. He was unfairly deemed a scapegoat in the franchise’s disappointing 2018-2019 season, and the expectations that were placed on him to rehab himself back to All-Star form on one of the deepest rosters the NBA has ever seen, they may have been a little too high. In hindsight, Hayward and the Celtics were not going to fit long-term.
Why Is Hornets Gordon Hayward So Different From The Celtics Version?
So, how has this new Charlotte Hornets Gordon Hayward been able to resurrect his career before it was too late? It may be for a multitude of reasons. More touches, less pressure, new teammates, new coach, maybe all the above. But a major reason may be the new market he is in.
Going back to his days with the Utah Jazz, Hayward helped bring the small-market Jazz bunch to a number of playoff runs, as they were among the league’s most competitive teams during his tenure. It’s no secret that Utah does not have the most appealing setting when trying to lure free agents or engage in trade talks. All of their talent of late his been homegrown, especially now with Donovan Mitchell and Rudy Gobert. Hayward’s steady progression in Utah brought him all the way to All-Star status in 2016-17, but he is yet to return to the festivities.
Going back to what I said about Boston, it is one of the largest markets in basketball. It is one of the most well-known and appealing destinations in the NBA. That is why Hayward had to share the floor with more stars than he ever had previously when he was with the Celtics. Playing alongside Kyrie Irving, Al Horford, Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown, Marcus Smart, among others, meant that Hayward’s role was not as prominent as it was in Utah. While that may be a luxury on paper, it did not have that same level of execution as fans thought it would have.
Charlotte vs Boston
Now that he is in Charlotte, Hayward has returned to a small-market, lottery-bound team where he will become more featured in the rotations and playbook. The timeline of this Hornets team is vastly different from the Celtics’ core. They are rebuilding from scratch with young talents like Terry Rozier, Hayward’s former Celtics teammate, rookie sensation LaMelo Ball, and young rotational players P.J. Washington, DeVonte’ Graham, and Miles Bridges. Hayward is the team’s veteran that drives the automobile that is the Hornets franchise.
This year, Hayward’s numbers are some of the best of his career. In 16 games this year, Hayward is averaging 24.1 PPG, 5.4 RPG, 3.6 APG, on 51% from the field, 44% from three, and 86% from the free-throw line, just shy of a 50-40-90 season thus far. While many Celtics fans thought the solution for Hayward was a lesser role with a lesser workload, it turns out that Hayward needed a larger role, just on a smaller market organization like Charlotte.
Can This New Charlotte Hornets Gordon Hayward Make It Back To The All-Star Game?
While initially the NBA elected to postpone the 2020-21 NBA All-Star festivities, new reports have emerged that the league is making a few moves to hold the annual event come March. So, assuming that the NBA is able to hold its highly-anticipated All-Star Game this year, has Hayward played himself back into consideration?
Fans and media like to not only point out a player’s accomplishments as an individual when casting their vote, but also that player’s team. That is largely why Bradley Beal, who averaged 30 points a night last year, was kept off both All-Star rosters. Do All-Star stats on poor performing teams hold any value when casting a vote? As of Tuesday afternoon, the Charlotte Hornets are the 12th seed in the East with a 7-10 record. They are only a half game from the 8th seed, and they’ve been extremely competitive on a night-to-night basis, so a turnaround is not out of the question.
The best thing for Hayward to do is to maintain the consistency he has had this year. He is fresh off one of the best nights of his career, scoring 39 points on 62% shooting, and a game-winning layup to cap it off. He looks like a star once more, but he just needs to maintain that level of play in order to regain that reputation he once had. The NBA, especially the Eastern Conference, may have plenty of new faces in the All-Star Game once again. Hayward will have to compete with an abundance of other names at his position, so securing an All-Star selection is going to be extremely challenging for Hayward.
That all being said, an All-Star snub would not be the end of the world for Hayward this year, as getting back to that level of player should be his primary concern, in addition to bringing this new look Hornets team back to the playoffs.
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