Look at the above photo. Does that look like a future NBA star? Not really, but he has become that. The Utah Jazz and their fans are still upset that Gordon Hayward left to come to Boston. But get over it. Here is the Salt Lake Tribune's Gordon Monson's irritation at Hayward's departure and optimism about Rookie Donovan Mitchell:

Gordon Hayward isn’t the story of 2017. Donovan Mitchell is.

So, here’s the question: Would you trade Mitchell for Hayward straight up?

The direct answer to the question isn’t no. It’s hell no.

As hurt as the Jazz and their fans felt, as betrayed by Hayward’s disingenuous behavior leading up to his leaving and the leaving itself, for all the handwringing over his decision, for all the breath and ink and inter-web space spent talking, writing, reading about it, his exit is not the Jazz’s story of the year.

DonovaMitch is the story of the year.

Gordon is out of his cast and walking fairly normally. He has a slight chance of returning to the team this season, and if not, he will be back for the start of next year's campaign. So where does he fit into Brad Stevens' scheme? The quick answer is almost anywhere. In Hayward, we are looking at the definition of versatility. And like Al Horford, he brings everything and takes away nothing.

For his career, Gordon has averaged 15.6 PPG, 4.2 RPG, 3.4 APG and 1.0 SPG. He shoots 44.4% from the field, 36.8% from beyond the arc and 82.0% from the foul line. In the past five seasons with the Jazz he displayed durability by averaging 75.6 games played per season. Adding to his overall value, last season he ranked 10th in defensive rating for players logging 30 or more minutes per game. At 6'8" and 225 pounds, he can attack and defend opponents of many shapes and sizes.

It is obvious that Coach Brad Stevens is very fond of his small-ball lineups. He has even gone with four point guards on the floor at the same time. Nothing is off-limits for Brad.

But with regards to Hayward, once he is back he will almost certainly start and finish games, as a shooting guard, small forward and occasional power forward. I can envision infrequent lineups with Gordon at PF and Jayson Tatum or Jaylen Brown at the center slot. Farfetched? Not with Brad at the helm, it isn't.

The most frequently-employed five-some may be Al Horford, Hayward, Tatum, Jaylen Brown and Kyrie Irving with Marcus Smart as sixth man. The Cleveland Cavaliers are surging Lebron James is playing like a man possessed. He is simply unbelievable.

Should the Celtics and Cavaliers meet in the playoffs this season, and Gordon Hayward is back in the fray, I would hope that the referees would pay close attention to the defense, and specific defender, on Gordon Hayward. I wrote in CelticsLife previously about Gordon's injury and the manner in which it occurred. No need to review it again. I staunchly stand by my analysis which was further supported by a photo I observed recently. Another reason for Gordon to come back healthy, strong and at 100%. And Utah writers and fans - get over it. Gordon is with us, and we love the guy.

Follow Tom at @TomLaneHC

Photo via Andy Lyons/Getty Images

Tom Lane 12/20/2017 07:47:00 AM Edit
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