Does Adding Gordon Hayward Make The Celtics True Contenders?
21.9 points, 5.4 rebounds, 3.5 assists, 47.1 FG%, and 39.8 3pt%
This is what the Boston Celtics are getting by adding Gordon Hayward. This is a good move for the Celtics, who needed to add a star to pair with Isaiah Thomas. With Gordon Hayward on the team, does this mean the Celtics will be contending for a championship? I’ve broken down how the addition of Gordon Hayward will impact the Celtics moving forward.
What stands out to me most from Hayward’s numbers, is his 21.9 points per game. Isaiah Thomas averaged 28.9 points per game last season, but there was a significant drop off between him and their second leading scorer. Avery Bradley followed Isaiah Thomas by averaging 16.3 points.
Adding Gordon Hayward gives this Celtics team a legit second scoring option. In today’s NBA, you have to have several players who can score at a high rate. Just look at teams like the Warriors and Cavaliers. The Warriors have Curry (25.3), Durant (25.1), and Thompson (22.3). The Cavaliers have LeBron (26.4), Kyrie (25.2), and Love (19.0). Each team has three real scoring threats. This is why these two teams were ranked 1st (GS) and 2nd (CLE) in offensive efficiency.
The Celtics ranked 9th in offensive efficiency, which is great, but it wasn’t enough to outmatch the Cavaliers. Adding Gordon Hayward makes their top three scorers look like this: Thomas (28.9), Hayward (21.9), and Bradley (16.3). Now compare those numbers to those of the Warriors and Cavs top three scorers. They’re not too far off.
Boston has put themselves in a good position when it comes to improving their offensive game. They’ve added Hayward in free-agency, but they’ve also added rookie Jayson Tatum through the draft. The strength of Tatum’s game is his offense. This gives them another offensive weapon. I don’t think Tatum will be one of their top three scorers in his rookie season, but he has the potential to be in just a couple of years.
The addition of Gordon Hayward will also help the Celtics improve their 3pt%. They shot 36.1% as a team last season, which ranked 13th in the league. In order to truly compete in today’s NBA, you have to be able to shoot well from behind the arc. Here’s another area where the Cavs and Warriors ranked 1st (CLE) and 2nd (GS – Tied SA).
The Cavaliers and Warriors have been two of the best 3pt shooting teams in the league for the past few seasons. Looking at the starting line-ups for both teams, 4 out of 5 starters are threats to score from deep at any time. This is part of why they’ve been the two best teams during that time span. The Celtics are adding a 3pt shooting threat in Gordon Hayward. Adding his 39.8% shooting from deep tightens the gap between the Celtics and true title contenders.
Problems This Move Doesn’t Solve
The Celtics ranked 26th in total rebounds per game last season. Their leading rebounder, Al Horford, had just 6.8 rebounds per game. Hayward’s 5.4 rebounds per game won’t exactly help that problem. His rebounding probably cancels out what they lost by letting go of Kelly Olynyk. Olynyk only averaged 4.8 rebounds per game, but that was in just 20.5 minutes. Hayward got his 5.4 rebounds in 34.5 minutes. Boston doesn’t have a true rebounding presence on their team. They lacked this all of last season, and still need to address that need going into next year.
After ranking 18th in defensive efficiency, defense is another area the Celtics still need to address. Gordon Hayward doesn’t make them any worse on defense, but I don’t think he makes them very much better. Hayward is a quality defender, but he’s not a defensive star. Boston had problems on the defensive side of the ball last year, especially against LeBron James and the Cavaliers. They had one good defensive game, but they couldn’t sustain it.
Most teams who are truly contending for championships are at the top of the league defensively. Golden State won their championship because of their defense, which ranked 1st in defensive efficiency. Except for in one game, they shut down Cleveland’s 2nd ranked offense. The Cavs, who ranked 22nd in defensive efficiency are the exception to true contenders. LeBron James is a pretty good way to overcome that problem, but the Celtics don’t have a LeBron to do that for them.
Are They True Contenders?
Boston ended up with the number one seed in the Eastern Conference last season. They also made it to the Conference Finals, where they ended up losing to the Cavaliers. They had a great team last year, and I think adding Gordon Hayward has made them better.
The only team I see getting in Boston’s way, is once again the Cleveland Cavaliers. If you thought the Eastern Conference was weak before, look at it now. The Western Conference has been loaded up. Boston is the only team I’ve seen make real improvements that will help them contend now. I’m still not sure this Celtics team can beat the Cavaliers, but I think their chances are higher than they were. They’ve improved, and that’s what contenders should be doing.