What to expect from Gordon Hayward in 2019-20


Over the summer, Gordon Hayward practiced without any restrictions. A week before the start of Celtics Training Camp, he expressed “I’m ready to be the player I came here to be.”

But what exactly does that mean?

In the season before he signed with Boston, Hayward was a Western Conference All-Star and averaged 21.9 points per game over 73 games. And his 2016-17 average wasn’t an outlier. Since he was drafted ninth overall in the 2010 NBA Draft, from one season to the next, Hayward averaged more points per game each year. There was never a regression until his injury in 2017-18.

But, when Hayward wrote “I’m ready to be the player I came here to be,” that wasn’t his way of saying: expect a scorer and nothing else.

He further illustrated to WEEI.com what he’ll provide Boston with this season.

“Somebody that’s going to try and help us win games,” he said. “I think that’ll differ from game to game, but, you know, just making the right play out there — on both ends of the floor — is something that I’m going to definitely try to do. Being more vocal at times, too, is something that I need to get better at. But really, just playing hard, competing, trying to help us win.”

When it comes to having a greater voice, part of that has to do with this being Hayward’s third year in Boston. It also has to do with the fact he’s now played in the NBA longer than anyone on the roster.

“As I stayed longer and longer in Utah it kind of naturally progressed. The last year I was there, I was definitely a lot more vocal than I was as a rookie, of course,” Hayward said. “But, on this team, you know, I have the most experience — it’s hard to believe — but, definitely, I have things I can help us with.”

Something else Hayward showed a glimpse of in the preseason win against Orlando was his defensive capability. Hayward covered Aaron Gordon throughout the night, and the Magic forward never found his rhythm.

“I just try to not let guys do what they’re best at,” Hayward said. “Try to make them shoot contested, tough jump shots. Not give them anything easy.” 

He took the straightforward approach from his days with the Jazz. Hayward was also quick to say, “We had a really good defense in Utah.” 

“It was really system-oriented,” he continued, “so there were definitely different rules, and Rudy (Gobert), for sure, was the anchor to that. But it makes it easy when you’re defending as a unit, as all five out there. Anybody in this league, it’s hard to just match up with them and lock them down 1-on-1. It’s usually never just one guy, there’s always somebody that’s in the gap that’s helping you. Even if you are defending 1-on-1, you know in your mind where the help is, where you can force them.”

As the Celtics try to figure out how to strengthen the defense with the departure of Al Horford and Aron Baynes, Hayward’s contributions on that end may be a sign of how Brad Stevens’ system is functioning.