Draft Prospect Profile: Gordon Hayward

by Danny Savitzky (Bio »), Clippers Team Writer - June 21, 2010

Going into the 2010-11 NBA season, the Clippers’ need to upgrade at small forward is palpable. Team writer Danny Savitzky examines small forward draft prospect Gordon Hayward.

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  • While many of the draft prospects in contention for a top-10 selection were highly touted college recruits, Gordon Hayward, playing for the mid-major Butler Bulldogs, made a name for himself through unexpected standout play. Hayward reached the pinnacle of his college fame when he led his team to the championship game of the NCAA Tournament in 2010, dispatching No. 1 seed Syracuse along the way.

    Even since the end of the season, though, Hayward has continued to propel himself, improving his stock as a mid- to late-first-round pick to a probable top-10 choice. Considering his skills, his going so high would certainly be well deserved.

    In his final season at Butler, Hayward posted averages of 15.5 points, 8.2 rebounds, 1.7 assists, 1.1 steals, and 0.8 blocks. He shot 46.4 percent from the field, but that figure runs a bit low: he shot over four 3-pointers a game and made under 30 percent of them. His 2-point shooting percentage was just short of 60 percent. Undoubtedly, his shooting is one of his strong points. While he doesn't quite have the desirable range on his shot (and he most likely won't be taking many NBA 3s in the early going), he is incredibly crafty in his mid-range game, combining a bevy of moves with a soft stroke.

    Aminu possesses remarkable speed and athleticism.

    Hayward's versatility is also an asset. In his younger days, Hayward was a much smaller player, so he learned the game of a guard. Later on, he went through a significant growth spurt, giving him the height of a forward. He managed to retain most of what he learned in terms of guard play, though, so he's effective in different ways. Accordingly, Hayward is a very good dribbler, and it would not be surprising to see him play some point forward in the pros. His passing could improve, but he hardly suffers from tunnel vision.

    One of the strongest points of Hayward's game is his defense. Coming from Butler, where success hinges on stingy defense, Hayward learned how to defend the ball. He's quick with his feet, he recognizes opponents' tendencies, and he has good hands. As defense is not exactly a hot commodity in the NBA, Hayward's commitment on that end should be refreshing for many teams.

    Furthermore, Hayward has the intangibles of a star player. He constantly displays a will to win, scrapping for loose balls and never giving up on a play. His leadership skills were evident throughout Butler's tournament run, and, as the final moments of the game against Duke showed, he's willing to take the last-second shot for his team.

    After his workout with the Clippers earlier this month, Hayward talked to fellow team writer Breene Murphy, and he spoke to the importance of playing hard: "You’re just out there competing. They want to see that you can compete and play hard. You only have so many opportunities to do this, to go out there and play as hard as you can," he said.

    Aminu's assortment of natural gifts is his largest asset.

    As far as the negatives go, the only improvement teams would like to see in terms of his fundamental skills is the range on his shot. He'll need to be able to connect consistently from the outside if he wants to be a solid offensive force. Everywhere else, his game is solid.

    Unfortunately, Hayward has physical limitations that will be difficult to overcome. He's listed at 6-foot-8, which is good for a small forward, but he's not a great leaper or athlete overall. His wingspan is also low at under 6-foot-8 (for comparison's sake, Al-Farouq Aminu's is over 7-foot-3), so he will have trouble contesting jump shots without fouling. Most importantly, though, it is critical that he add bulk to his frame. Right now, he's too skinny. He won't have any post presence, possibly negating his talents from midrange, and cut forwards like Ron Artest and LeBron James will bully him when he's on defense. Adding weight should be his top priority right now.

    For the Clippers, Hayward would be a good fit. He could take some of the playmaking pressure off of Baron Davis, and his leadership and defense would definitely be valued. While Aminu and Wesley Johnson would be better options at small forward, they aren't necessarily going to be around. If that's the case, Hayward would still be an acceptable option at No. 8.

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