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Hive Dive: Gordon Hayward is the Steady Hand the Hornets Need

Courtesy of the Charlotte Hornets

We’re back with another edition of the Hive Dive, a biweekly series analyzing trends and narratives in the Charlotte Hornets that go deeper than just results. Today’s topic: the rock-steadiness of Gordon Hayward, the $30 Million man.

Past two weeks:

Record: 3-4 (8-7 overall, 8th in the East)

11/3 @ GS – L 114-92

11/5 @ SAC – L 140-110

11/7 @ LAC – 120-106

11/8 @ LAL – L 126-123

11/10 @ MEM – W 118-108

11/12 vs NY – W 104-96

11/14 vs GS – 106-102

Yeah. That road trip was a tough one.

The Dive:

Hayward is the Steady Hand the Hornets Need

If you listen to broadcasts, podcasts, or even just online chatter that includes the Hornets, you may have picked up on the repetition of a particular oxymoronic refrain: ‘A quiet 20 points.’ Gordon Hayward seems to have that effect, though, flying under the radar even while putting up numbers becoming of a former All-Star. While Hayward’s 18.3 PPG don’t come through eye-popping dunks like Miles Bridges or stunning, deep threes like LaMelo Ball, the low profile of his scoring may be a clue to just how valuable it is.

Efficiency On Display

An astute observer might notice that Gordon Hayward ditched the hair product this season, and one can only assume that every bit of stability removed from his ‘do has transferred to his game. His true shooting percentage of 60.3% this season not only leads the Hornets but is also his career-best, even eking out his 2016-17 All-Star season. That mark also puts him at 20th in the league among all non-centers playing at least 300 minutes.

In addition to his efficiency, Hayward also has the most consistent output of the three leading scorers for the Hornets. LaMelo Ball has the highest standard deviation in his scoring each game at 7.90, while Bridges posts 7.67 and Hayward sits at a steady 6.82. While the highs are certainly higher for each of Ball and Bridges, there’s value in Hayward’s ability to contribute no matter the matchup and avoid extended cold spells.

Keeping It Moving

Another easy-to-miss characteristic of Hayward’s game is how naturally he moves the ball and racks up assists. The Hornets’ improv-heavy offensive scheme demands good decision-making and ball movement, and it shows in their 26 assists per game, 4th best in the league. Hayward plays an important role in this, and on a team full of young and savvy ball-handlers, Hayward at 3.7 APG still out-passes all but the visionary LaMelo.

More than just making the last pass of a possession, Gordon Hayward also lets the ball flow through him throughout a given play with all the unselfishness you would expect from a mature and level-headed veteran. Despite ranking top three on the team in both points and assists, Hayward’s usage rate of 20.6% sits below not just Ball and Bridges, but also behind Terry Rozier, Kelly Oubre Jr., and Ish Smith. All one has to do to see this illustrated is watch the way Hayward makes quick reads and quicker decisions when the ball does find him and the good things that are always sure to follow.

The Best Ability is Accountability

Almost as important as the stats he puts up, Gordon Hayward has also shown an increased leadership role that didn’t seem as prevalent in his first year as a Hornet. It makes sense that the team would look to him for perspective – he’s one of only 3 Hornets with any significant playoff experience as well as the only roster member to ever earn All-Star recognition.

Given his role as a mainstay on the starting squad, it’s all the more impressive that over the course of the young season, he has pointed out the team’s slow starts as a failure on the first unit. Unlike some past Hornets who received enormous contracts and then checked out, Hayward shows a clear eagerness not only to get wins but to take responsibility for the expectations he should meet in the pursuit of them. As long as he continues to provide the calming presence to balance out Charlotte’s high-flying offense and fiery attitude, those wins are sure to pile up.

Miles Bridges in-game, mid-leap with the ball in his hand for a dunk.
via Bally Sports Southeast

Bug Bites:

Pining for PJ

PJ Washington has been sidelined with an elbow hyperextension since the Hornets’ first matchup with Golden State thanks to a suspect-looking lockup from Otto Porter Jr. under the basket in that loss. His absence certainly contributed to the additional 4-game slide that followed, and it shows on both sides of the floor.

The Hornets bench was scoring well at the beginning of the season, helping buoy the team through many first halves with lackluster performance from the starters. Not so since PJ’s injury. Except for Kelly Oubre’s 37-point stunner off the bench in their win over Memphis, the second unit offense looks anemic without the extra spacing and firepower that PJ provides. Additionally, the Hornets found themselves scraping the very bottom of the league in defensive rating. Given that Washington is one of only 4 Hornets without a negative defensive box plus/minus, his minutes have had to be distributed to worse defenders. It goes without saying that the buzz will be very happy to have PJ back whenever he returns.

Posterity Papi

Speaking of those 37 points, Kelly Oubre etched his name into the Hornets record books in Memphis when he set a new record for the most points scored off the bench in a single game. It was poetry in motion for Oubre as he shot a scorching 7-9 from 3, and those 37 points not only led all scorers, but he was a clear 12 points ahead of the next-closest Hornet.

There’s got to be some significance behind the fact that the player whose name was overwritten for the record was Malik Monk, who Oubre essentially replaced when Monk was allowed to walk in the offseason. For what it’s worth, Monk seems to be happier in LA than Charlotte, but he’s declined in just about every stat, and Oubre tops him in points, rebounds, and PER so far this season.

Yowza!

If you don’t know what I’m talking about, please do yourself a favor and take a watch. Hum diddly dee.

Written by Michael Gallucci

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