Gordon Hayward deserves to be an NBA All-Star

By Chase Whitney

February 9, 2021

Photo: AP / Jacob Kupferman

The Charlotte Hornets took a gamble on Gordon Hayward when they signed him to a four-year $120 million contract after three years with the Boston Celtics, and it has paid off unequivocally. He’s returned to the All-Star level he was performing at pre-injury with the Utah Jazz and he’s assumed the role as a veteran leader of a young rebuilding franchise with ease.

Since the organization rebranded back to the Hornets in 2014, the franchise has had only three All-Star selections, all from Kemba Walker. Even with Hayward’s return to All-Star form, it will still be difficult for him to crack the 2020-21 All-Star roster with the depth of talent among frontcourt players in the Eastern Conference this season.

Through the first round of All-Star fan voting, Hayward had the eighth most votes among frontcourt players, comfortably below Julius Randle and above Jerami Grant. Only the starting five is determined through fan, media, and player voting results, while the coaches choose the seven reserves on the roster. Hayward has a slim chance at climbing from ninth to the top-three in the frontcourt category (two backcourt and three frontcourt players comprise the starting five) to be voted in as a starter with the deficit he’s currently at, which means he’ll likely be relying on the coaches vote to make it in as a reserve.

Hayward’s per-game stats of 22.9 points, 5.5 rebounds, 3.9 assists and 1.2 steals on 49.5/42.5/86.2 shooting splits with a 61.0 true shooting percentage are clearly All-Star level. Unfortunately for him, there are lots of players with comparable numbers: Malcolm Brogdon, Jerami Grant, Tobias Harris, Khris Middleton, Julius Randle, Domantas Sabonis, Pascal Siakam, and Nikola Vučević are all worthy All-Stars, and that’s before mentioning Jimmy Butler, who is a far better player than any of the aforementioned but has already missed 12 games in a condensed 72-game season and has yet to play himself back into shape.

Some players are all but guaranteed to make the team. Giannis Antetokounmpo, Bradley Beal, Jaylen Brown, Kevin Durant, Joel Embiid, James Harden, Kyrie Irving and Jayson Tatum are all established All-Stars that have played in enough of their respective team’s games to be locked in. That leaves four spots for nearly a dozen deserving players when guards, forwards and bigs are all thrown into the mix.

There is a strong case to be made for Hayward to be selected as one of the reserves. Beyond his solid stats, his advanced metrics are impressive. Hayward makes a living scoring efficiently in the toughest areas of the court, taking 42 percent of his shot attempts from the mid-range and hitting 48 percent of them per Cleaning The Glass, putting him in the 86th and 75th percentiles in the NBA, respectively. 

He’s also dramatically raised his three-point efficiency from 36 percent over two seasons with the Boston Celtics to 42 percent with the Hornets. On catch-and-shoot three-point shots, Hayward converts 45.5 percent of his 3.7 attempts per game, placing him in 21st among players that take at least three per game (Fun Fact: Terry Rozier is seventh at 49.6 percent). Hayward’s also deadly accurate from the corners; he’s made 13 of his 23 corner threes (57 percent) this year, good for the 95th percentile, per Cleaning The Glass.

Perhaps the most important or valuable aspects of Hayward’s game are his playmaking and passing. He gives the Hornets a safety valve in that he can break a defense down in isolation and not only score, but make a play to set up his teammates with an assist percentage of 17.8 that ranks in the 82nd percentile and a 1.90 assist-to-turnover ratio.

Hayward has put up solid numbers in an expanded role, but his impact on the team as a whole can’t be understated. The Hornets were widely projected to finish as a bottom five team in the East Conference at best. Through 25 games, the Hornets sit at sixth place in the conference, just two games behind third-place Brooklyn. Miles Bridges, Devonte’ Graham and PJ Washington have continued developing and the addition of LaMelo Ball gave the team a sense of direction, but the bulk of success can be attributed to Hayward, and he should be rewarded with his second-career All-Star appearance for it. 

How fans can vote: 

NBA.com: Fill out one full ballot per day on vote.NBA.com. Fans can select up to two guards and three frontcourt players from each conference when choosing starters.

NBA App: Fill out one full ballot per day by selecting up to two guards and three frontcourt players from each conference when choosing starters.

Twitter: Tweet, retweet or reply with a hashtag of an NBA player’s first and last name (#FirstNameLastName) or Twitter handle, along with the hashtag #NBAAllStar. Each tweet may include only one player’s name or handle. Fans may vote for 10 unique players per day from Jan. 28 – Feb. 16.

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