Even though the Utah Jazz are contending for a playoff berth, the appreciation of the team is very low. They are seemingly left out of every conversation concerning the top performers, yet they rank ahead of teams that are raved about like the Boston Celtics or Houston Rockets.
Jazz forward Gordon Hayward is playing at a high level this season and deserves to be in the running for the Sixth Man of the Year award. However, as aforementioned, it is unlikely he will even be considered.
Hayward has come off the bench in 37 of the 47 games he's played, averaging 14.1 points, 3.0 rebounds and 2.5 assists. He is converting on 42.9 percent of his shots, in addition to shooting percentages of 39.6 and 83.2 from three-point range and from the free-throw line, respectively.
The 6'8" forward has made a lot of noise since the All-Star break.
Hayward has upped his numbers to 22.0 points, 4.3 rebounds and 3.3 assists in three games since competitive basketball resumed last week. His 43.6 field-goal percentage isn't all that different, yet Hayward is going 2.0-of-4.7 from deep for a 42.9 clip. When keeping in mind that he is returning from a shoulder injury that forced him to miss 10 games, his play as of late is even more spectacular.
In addition, he is averaging 9.7 free-throw attempts per game since NBA All-Star Weekend. Hayward normally gets to the line 4.6 times per game this season, so seeing him get to the line more than double his normal output is remarkable. Hayward is also shooting 89.7 percent at the stripe to boot. He is not only active in drawing fouls but effective as well.
Hayward's recent play alone can't merit such accolades, but he has been consistent throughout the season. Using his production through January as an example, he scored 14.5 points with 47.1 percent from long range.
Having a scorer like Hayward off the bench has been vital to the Jazz's success. Therefore, he deserves the attention. Names like Kevin Martin or Ray Allen will be popular choices, but Hayward should be next in line for the Sixth Man of the Year award.
All statistics sourced from espn.com/nba/statistics.
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