The Boston Celtics entered the suspension of the NBA season sitting in third place in the Eastern Conference, already clinching a playoff spot. While Jayson Tatum and Kemba Walker are the clear leaders of the team, Gordon Hayward is the player that can push Boston to a deep playoff run.
During the 2018-2019 season, Hayward looked understandably hesitant after a brutal leg injury in 2017. This season, Hayward looks visibly more comfortable and it is showing on the stat sheet. Here are two reasons why Hayward is the key difference-maker for Boston.
Willingness to facilitate:
Hayward understands that his role on this team is not to be the primary or even secondary scorer. Instead, he must act as a facilitator with the ability to score in a variety of ways.
I have been impressed with Hayward’s performance as a facilitator this season. He is averaging 4.1 assists per game, only slightly behind Boston’s point guards Kemba Walker and Marcus Smart.
This is important moving forward because the Celtics lack facilitators. Walker is a great player, but he is certainly a score-first point guard. Smart can be an accurate passer, but he is more known for his defensive prowess.
That leaves Hayward as the next facilitator for a Celtics team that ranks 25thin assists. Hayward is a natural scorer, but I have been impressed with his precision as a passer. He understands that some of his teammates are more ball-dominant players and he is willing to set them up for the greater good of the team.
There is plenty of scoring talent in Boston and it has been refreshing to see Hayward’s willingness to distribute. This is just one reason why he is so valuable to the Celtics.
Along with being a facilitator, Hayward has been a productive scorer due to his shooting efficiency. Hayward has proved to be a reliable scorer for Boston from 3-point range as well as inside.
Hayward is shooting a career best 50.2 percent from the field and his 3-point and free throw percentages are almost identical to his all-star season in 2016-2017. This is definitely a good sign for Boston as Hayward is likely considered the third or fourth best player on the team.
Hayward’s efficiency as a shooter makes the Celtics a very dangerous team in the postseason. When teams key in on Tatum or Walker, it allows Hayward and others to get open looks that they are likely to knock down. This certainly seems to be the case as 85.1 percent of Hayward’s 3-point field goals come off assists.
Instead of pulling a contested three, Hayward will often work his way inside for an easier finish. This simply makes the Celtics more versatile offense and certainly tougher to defend.
Overall, Hayward is the X-factor the Celtics need in order to make a deep playoff run. Hayward has really found his role in Boston and it is showing in his performance.