Hayward Will Fit Jazz, But He Won't Shine
He knows HOW to play.
Whether that's good enough, or whether it will work against real NBA players, or whether it warranted a pick so high is a question that surely will follow him through his rookie season.
He just doesn't look physically NBA ready. After all, there aren't many baby-faced, weak-looking, former highly-ranked tennis players making a living today in the NBA.
"I guess the Utah Jazz saw something they liked,'' Hayward said Monday with a knowing grin. "That (whether he's physically strong enough) has been an issue my whole life, in high school, college and now. But what I give up in some regards, I make up with other things, like quickness, anticipation, a first step."
Hayward, a spectator through parts of Utah's opening loss to Charlotte, showed what he does best in that final minute, which gave the Jazz a fighting chance.
His open-court steal and dunk cut Charlotte's lead to four points. His nifty assist and resulting dunk by James Augustine cut it to two. And finally, with three seconds remaining, he passed up a contested jumper to find a wide-open Sundiata Gaines across the court for a potential game-tying shot. The shot may have missed at the buzzer, but Hayward proved his point.
"I had the option to shoot it, but making the pass to a shooter who is more wide open, that's what I do,'' he said. "An extra pass to get a better shot always looks better to me. I'm always about team.''
Hayward is the 6-8, 207-pound small forward who led unheralded Butler University through a magical NCAA Tournament run, leading to his sudden rise in stature and his decision to enter the NBA Draft after two years of college, a prospect that would have amazed even him a year ago.
Although he looked tentative through much of Monday's game, he was efficient. He made his only two field goal attempts -- a 20-foot-jumper and the late-game dunk. He made all four of his free throws. He had five rebounds, two assists and two steals in 26 minutes.
There also was the time he got caught on the wrong end of a poster-dunk by Charlotte's Alexis Ajinca, and the time he was caught flat-footed when Derrick Brown blew past him, but those didn't seem to bother Utah assistant coach Scott Layden.
"He has things that are valuable and vital to our system,'' Layden said. "He has a good feel for the game, and he can make others around him better. He has a great sense of where he is, who he is. He does things that can help a team win.''
It's unlikely that Hayward will be making a big splash as a rookie in Utah, but he may fit in seamlessly, providing a nice complement to an existing cast. Although many teams didn't rate him as high as the Jazz did in the draft, the Jazz also run a proven system under veteran coach Jerry Sloan that puts a premium on disciplined play.
It's why Hayward didn't always shine during individual workouts leading into the draft. Team guys rarely do. His selection on draft night was greeted by booing from Jazz fans, who were expecting a much-needed front court player instead.
"The workouts I was a little uncomfortable with because it's all about you, and not about anything as a team,'' Hayward said. "For me, to be back in a team concept, that's what I really enjoy. We may have lost today, but I liked being part of this again.''