In a docu-series released by The Athletic called “The Return”, Boston Celtics forward Gordon Hayward exclaimed:
“I won’t be the same player… I’ll be a different player. I think something of that magnitude changes you as a player. Does that mean that I’m not going to be able to get to the same level or better than I was? Absolutely not.”
Being just over a year removed from a devastating foot and ankle injury, a slow start was expected for Hayward. Though, not many expected the former All-Star to have a career-low .390 field goal percentage while averaging just ten points per game.
Hayward’s struggles have mirrored Boston’s, as the Celtics are ranked 24 of 30 in points per game (105.6) and offensive rating (105.8). They rank even worse in team shooting percentage (42.8 percent) at 28 of 30.
Clearly, a shake-up is needed, and Hayward is well aware of it. The forward told Gary Washburn of the Boston Globe that he is willing to come off the bench. Specifically, Hayward stated:
“For me, I’m happy to be on the court, No. 1 more than anything and, No. 2, whatever I can do to help us win’’.
Before Celtic fans panic about their highest paid player coming off the bench, let us look at the positives that will come from the situation.
More shot attempts for Hayward
When asked about his slow start, Hayward answered:
“Sometimes it gets frustrating, but for me, I’ve played in the league long enough to know you just have to put in the work in practice and shoot with confidence, shoot your way out of it.”
Unfortunately, Hayward hasn’t been allowed to “shoot his way out of it” due to the Celtics’ abundance of scoring options. Boston has seven players averaging at least 8.5 field goal attempts per game, with Hayward being second to last among them at 9.5. This is a far cry from the 15 field-goal attempts per game Hayward saw in his final seasons in Utah.
A move to the bench will create a situation where Hayward is a primary scoring option, allowing him to attempt more field goals, and shoot out of his slump.
A veteran scorer on Celtics second unit
Boston’s second unit is struggling offensively. Only Marcus Morris (0.2) has a positive offensive box plus/minus in the group. The Celtic’s need to swap Jaylen Brown, who is struggling offensively, with Hayward, which would allow Boston to add a veteran scorer to their second unit without mortgaging their defense.
Boston is desperate for a spark
The Celtics have to change things up offensively. They need Hayward taking more shots in order to escape his “funk”, as well as need their offensive efficiency to improve as a whole.
Hayward coming off the bench is just the spark Boston needs. Having an All-Star caliber presence off will give the Celtics a massive advantage over teams that lack depth. There will be no possessions off for Boston’s opposition when Hayward enters the game for Jayson Tatum or Jaylen Brown.