Has Gordon Hayward’s hot start made him an asset for Charlotte Hornets?

Charlotte Hornets. Mandatory Credit: Sam Sharpe-USA TODAY Sports
Charlotte Hornets. Mandatory Credit: Sam Sharpe-USA TODAY Sports /

The NBA world was stunned by the news that Gordon Hayward had inked a deal way beyond his price range: a four-year, $120 million deal with the Charlotte Hornets on a November morning in 2020. Despite the fact that Hayward was close to staying in Boston and considering returning home to Indiana, Michael Jordan made a late-night call to secure an agreement to land the doubted veteran free agent in buzz city.

When it comes to the 32-year-old here in his third season in teal, not much has changed in terms of confusion and uncertainty. It was actually not too difficult to understand Jordan’s perspective on the settlement. Clearly, with open faith in his health, the team was in desperate need of a mature, impactful veteran who could provide locker-room guidance as well.

The Charlotte Hornets gambled big on Gordon Hayward.

Knowing Hayward’s abilities and the fact that the Hornets have never attracted the attention of any free agents, it makes sense to throw him that money. For a number of years now, people’s first reaction when they hear Hayward’s name is to grimace in sorrow, remembering his horrific leg injury just five minutes into his Celtic career during the 2017 season opener.

When he returned to the court the following season with Kyrie Irving in Boston, he played a gimping, unproductive 72 games with some coming off the bench, but that is no excuse for his recent absences.

The 2017 All-Star has been really good at showing signs of his Utah self when he has been available for Charlotte. He has put up 17.6 points per game, 5.1 rebounds, and 3.9 assists with his accustomed, efficient shooting from the field at 46.6 percent and 40% from three.

The issue is that Hayward has played just 101 games in his two-and-a-half-year tenure with the Hornets. Thursday night was his fifth consecutive matchup missed through the first 13 games due to left shoulder soreness, as the team is visiting Miami for two.

When healthy, Gordon Hayward can still be productive for the Charlotte Hornets or another team.

It was the veteran’s 68th missed contest in Charlotte’s 169 since he arrived, including both play-in games. Hayward has averaged 17.4 points per game, 4.3 rebounds per game, and 4.1 assists per game in his first eight games, shooting 47.2% from the field and 35.7% from distance.

Sure, we all hear the rumor of Charlotte unloading him to the desperate Los Angeles Lakers along with teammate Terry Rozier in LA’s efforts to dump Russell Westbrook’s expiring contract and more, but outside of that slight possibility, there is not really a field of interest due to his contract and injury woes.

When he is on the floor, that is what makes Hayward such a valuable piece. His poise and ability to run an offense as a point forward are exact representations of the unrivaled efficiency that he has always provided.

Since the 2017 All-Star season with the Jazz prior to his big injury, Hayward has shot 47.4% from the field. a prime example of his effectiveness in Charlotte?

In fact, there were only seven players in the league who scored more points per possession with a better true shooting percentage than Hayward in that 2017 All-Star campaign.

At some point, durability becomes a skill. In year 13, regardless of his hefty salary, Hayward has proven that when he is healthy, he can be a top threat for any team’s circumstance. His leadership and tranquility lay a foundation for any young team or contender as a leader. Hence, the Hornets or Lakers.

Next. Have the Jazz's hot start cost them Wembamyama?. dark

Hayward will be 34 when his free agency comes around in 2024. Between now and then, if the Indiana native can display some non-injury consistency, there may be more suitors in pursuit of negotiating with Jordan and the Charlotte Hornets.