Throughout the offseason, we’ll be counting down the Top 50 players in the NBA from 50 to 1. Who will just miss the cut? Which names do you expect to see? Regardless, you’ll be able to find them all right here.
Why He’s Great: That’s kind of a trick question. There is no specific skill in which Gordon Hayward is great. He was not one of the NBA’s 25 leading scorers per game. He’s not even a 37 percent three-point shooter. Hell, he’s never made an All-Defensive team. Most point forward types average more than 8.9 combined assists and rebounds per game.
But let’s turn that around. Hayward was the NBA’s 26th leading scorer. He made almost 40 percent of his three-pointers last season. He might have been the best defensive player in the NBA not to get any votes for All Defense. Most regular forwards don’t average 8.9 combined assists and rebounds.
In that sense, nothing by itself makes Hayward great. But he’s very good at nearly everything an NBA player is asked to do. That combined makes him great. He can be whatever his team asks him to be. Few players have the capacity to lead a team in scoring one night, assists the next and rebounds the game after. Fewer can defend an opponent’s best perimeter player in the process. Being really good at a lot of things can make you great.
Why He’s Below No. 19 (Klay Thompson): But it can’t make you greater than someone who’s great at a few things. Thompson is a better shooter and overall scorer than Hayward. And, he’s a better defender as well. Those extra skills Hayward brings to the table matter, but context makes Thompson the better player.
Hayward is not LeBron James. He does everything well, but not to an elite level. He is not someone who can be the best player on a championship team. The totality of his skills does not add up to the sheer greatness of Thompson’s few high-end talents. You can go on the free agent market and find a forward to do a bit of passing here, a bit of defending there and ultimately feel like you’ve got yourself a pretty good role player.
But you can’t just pick Klay Thompsons off of the market because they don’t really exist. Sure, three-and-D is a common archetype of wings right now. But Thompson is the league’s second best player in the a�?three” portion and somewhere in the top 15-20 for the a�?D” segment. The only player better at those two skills combined is Kawhi Leonard.
Put Klay Thompson with the right point guard, or even a nice passing point forward, and you’ll get more out of his skills than you ever would with Hayward.