The Microscope: Gordon Hayward as a Throwback, Do-It-All Wing Player (and More)
The Microscope is your recurring look at the NBA's small-scale developments—the rotational curiosities, skill showcases, coaching decisions, notable performances and changes in approach that make the league go 'round.
Gordon Hayward, fleshing out his complete game in Utah.
The Utah Jazz have a number of talented prospects, but none is more universally applicable than Hayward—a do-it-all swingman in an age of increasing specialization. The era of the hyper-versatile wing players is slowly slipping through our collective fingers, but Hayward remains a throwback in that specific sense; he makes plays for a team with a struggling creator, he rebounds effectively for his position, he scores by way of his own devices as easily as he works off the ball and he currently ranks as one of the league's most underrated on-ball defenders.
On Twitter, Beckley Mason of HoopSpeak and ESPN.com sharply compared Hayward to a young Stephen Jackson—a notion that defies the hardly subtle racial lines of standard player comparison, but actually fits quite well when you boil down their respective skill sets. Hayward brings the same ensemble of NBA functions to the table without the baggage or indiscretion, and for that reason he may actually be the most exciting of Utah's neophytes; Favors can have his length and Kanter his strength, but Hayward could potentially develop any which way—or more tantalizingly, in every direction at once.
Second chances for Gerald Green and Terrence Williams.
The NBA is great at handing out second chances that aren't actually second chances (throwing a discarded prospect back into the fire for a single game, taking a shot on a player in camp only to cut him loose, etc.), but it's good to see two immensely talented players—New Jersey's Gerald Green and Sacramento's Terrence Williams—getting opportunities beyond the standard NBA lifeline.
Green's stint with the Nets has likely already secured him a spot in the league's short-term future; he's shown enough life between dunks to warrant a more thorough look, but it still remains to be seen whether the new-and-slightly-more-attentive Green could function as a member of a more legitimate offensive system.
Merely playing alongside an elite point guard does not a coherent offense make; the Nets are all over the place in terms of execution, and though Green has been able to thrive in that particular scene, he still has a long way to go before proving his NBA competence in the big picture. For the moment, though, he's absolutely deserving of his roster spot.
Williams' case is a bit more unique, if only because as a player he seemed to actively dig his own grave. Tardiness put Williams on Avery Johnson's bad side in New Jersey, and Williams' far too frequent Twitter rants likely had something to do with his impromptu free agency. There's tantalizing potential in his currently high-risk playing style, and it's good to see that the Kings signed Williams with the intent to actually play him (he logged 18 minutes against San Antonio on Wednesday)—an occurrence that's sadly rarer than one might think.
Charlotte still finding new and exciting ways to lose.
On Wednesday night, the Minnesota Timberwolves essentially played just seven players in their game against the Charlotte Bobcats (Ricky Rubio, Nikola Pekovic, J.J. Barea and Michael Beasley all missed the game with injury. Darko Milicic and Anthony Randolph received DNP-CDs because, well, yeah).
Three of those seven players scored five points or fewer—including Derrick Williams, who converted just two of his 11 field-goal attempts. Another (Martell Webster) scored just eight points in 41 minutes. Two of Minnesota's other scorers (Luke Ridnour and Anthony Tolliver) dropped between 10 and 15, providing decent support that would nonetheless seem insufficient, considering the circumstances.
But thanks to Kevin Love's 40 points on 31 shots and Charlotte's impressive inability to either defend or score, the Bobcats still lost to a Wolves squad that seemed hopelessly dependent on a single player.
Let this be a lesson to all of us: Hope is never lost in Charlotte—unless you're a Bobcat. It's been a miserable campaign, but we're nearing the lottery light at the end of the tunnel.
(Also notable: The Wolves converted 33 total field goals, six of which were made by Ridnour. Impressively, Ridnour also notched 14 assists on the night, making him responsible for 20-of-33 (61 percent) Minnesota buckets. Not too shabby.)
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