Passing ability may indicate Gordon Hayward's ceiling

By Matt Moore | NBA writer

The Jazz finally, mercifully, committed to a true youth movement, bringing in expiring contracts and focusing on their younger talent. It's assumed they have a long way to go to reshape the team, starting with the development of Derrick Favors and Enes Kanter, along with first-round draft pick Trey Burke.

But an interesting question surrounds Gordon Hayward. The 23-year-old fourth-year-to-be player had a very solid season in a crowded rotation in 2013. Jazz blog SLC dunk broke down where Hayward needs to improve next season, and notes his per-36-minutes last season were in line with some really great players.

(Hayward averaged 17-4-4 on 44 percent from the field, 42 percent from the arc.)

It's Hayward's passing the blog zeroes in on as the change Hayward will have to adjust to next year:

(M)uch of the Jazz's success this year will depend on not only Hayward's ability to be a primary scorer, but also his ability to be a main playmaker. Everything I hear from Dennis Lindsey seems to imply that this is the expectation: that Hayward will be the all-around leader of the team's offense. And it makes sense ... besides whatever Trey Burke can give the team, Hayward is by far the most well-established passer.

If Hayward can make a (Nicolas) Batum-like jump in his assists ... say to five or more, then I believe things will be going really, really well for the Jazz. It is what I am going to watch for, almost more than even his scoring.

The Jazz were 11th last season in assist ratio (percentage of buckets scored on assists), but may wind up losing Mo Williams because he wants to start, and have downgraded the roster considerably. They are likely going to be tanking a little bit, but next year is also a chance for Hayward and Favors to come into their own.

Hayward has shown flashes of sheer brilliance but also some signs of serious limitation. He's a little bit on the teeter-totter and next year could indicate a lot about how the next four to five years of his career will go.

 
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