Perhaps there hasn’t been a recent player more polarizing in Utah Jazz fan circles than Gordon Hayward. A borderline All-Star/ number one option who has a penchant for inconsistency yet is constantly improving. Regardless of how one feels about the Vanilla Villain, there’s no denying that he is a pretty proficient NBA player. With a shallow pool of small forwards in Jazz history, one has to wonder how Hayward measures up.
To adequately compare Hayward to other small forwards to suit up for the 801 I have chosen five small forwards from Jazz history and ranked them in five categories:
1. Shooting: Does he put the ball through the net from deep? Does he take smart shots?
2. Defense: How well does he stop the other player from scoring? Does he block shots, steal the ball and is he a good team defender?
3. Passing: How well does he find other players? Can he get the ball to h is teammates when they get open?
4. Scoring: How well does he score points? Is he consistent and reliable?
5. Intangibles: Is he a good teammate? Does he make other players better? Does he have a high give a crap factor? In other words does he care about his teammates and winning enough to constantly play hard?
1. Dantley had a silky smooth mid-range game but rarely shot threes and shot a low percentage on those he did. Dantley Ranks our number three shooter.
2. Dantley was solid at best defensively and was never a shot blocker or a ball thief. Dantley ranks as the number five defender.
3. Dantley had the ball in his hands constantly and just by opportunity racked up a few assists. He is our number four passer.
4. He averaged 28 points for six of his seven years in Utah. He is our number one scorer
5. Never really a fungus in the locker room but a sub-par leader who rarely made his teammates better Dantley ranks fifth in intangibles.
1. A solid shooter from the outside with limited opportunity. Russell is our number two shooter.
2. The player tasked with guarding arguably the best scorer or all time, in the finals, and did a fine job of it despite the outcome. Russell is our number two defender.
3. Russell had the ball in his hands very little and those rare passes he did make never really amazed. Russell is our number five passer.
4. See number three and two. Russell is the number five scorer.
5. A hard worker and decent teammate who rarely let the other teams talk get to him. Russell is number two in intangibles.
1. Harpring was a great mid-range shooter but never really shot the three-pointer well (33 percent) or often.
2. A solid defender but never agile, big or athletic enough to constantly win battles defensively with the league’s elite.
3. Not really known for his passing but a willing passer Harpring is ranked number three in passing.
4. One of the more consistent off the bench scorers I have seen and prolific scorer in his time starting. Harpring is ranked third in the scoring category..
5. Tough as a rhino’s hide Harpring played through injury and fatigue and was an incredible locker room presence. Harpring is the number one intangibles small forward in Utah Jazz history.
Though he improved as a shooter under the tutelage of Jeff Hornacek, shooting was never AK-47’s forte. It never really became comfortable to watch him shoot. On a list filled with shooters, Kirilenko comes in a number five.
A jack of all trades, long as it gets and quicker than lightning sand. Kirilenko had the unteachables to be an all-time-great defender. Incredibly he lived up to the hype playing elite defensively both on and off the ball. Kirilenko is our number one defender.
With a relatively high basketball IQ and more than a few pretty passes, remember his between the legs pass to Matthews against the Grizzlies? This eccentric haired Russian was a phenomenal passer? Kirilenko ranks second in passing.
Though Kirilenko slowed down as he got older he seemed to have a knack for putting the ball in the basket. However, with his lack of shooting ability early in his career and limited opportunity late in his career Kirilenko was never the go-to scorer on a very good team. For that reason, Kirilenko ranks fourth in scoring among Jazz Small Forwards
Kirilenko worked well with almost any line-up Jerry Sloan jammed him into. He played a couple different positions and was willing to guard every position at one time or another. There was the crying about the minutes debacle, so we’ll rank Andrei number three in intangibles.
1. Hayward shoots a better percentage and more often than anyone else on this list. Hayward is our number one shooter and it’s not even close.
2. A great team defender who usually guards the other team’s best scorer. He is just long enough and quick enough to be fringe elite on the defensive side of the ball. Hayward is our number three defender.
3. Probably the best passing small forward in the league this side of Lebron, a great Hockey assister and a decision maker. Hayward is our number one passer.
4. Between his ability to drive to the hoop, get fouled and shooting ability Hayward is an elite level scorer who needs just a tad more consistency. Hayward is the number two scorer.
5. A coach on the court, leader by example and learned vocal leader, Haywards intangibles are superb. Hayward is the second ranked player as far as intangibles.
After going over the different skills of Jazz small forwards, I am pleasantly surprised to find that G-time compares favorable to the greats at his position. He’s already the best in many ways and he is still getting better. We are all lucky to watch him play.