How Gordon Hayward will help the Oklahoma City Thunder make a deep playoff run

The Oklahoma City Thunder made a big move at the trade deadline, trading for Hornets wing Gordon Hayward, who will help them as they try to make a deep playoff run this season.
Denver Nuggets v Charlotte Hornets
Denver Nuggets v Charlotte Hornets / David Jensen/GettyImages

After the addition of Gordon Hayward at the NBA Trade Deadline, the Oklahoma City Thunder are primed for a deep playoff run.

Under general manager Sam Presti, The Oklahoma City Thunder have become known for being one of the smartest organizations in the NBA when it comes to acquiring draft picks and building a roster. Presti doesn't make a big trade very often, but he did at this year's trade deadline, acquiring forward Gordon Hayward from the Charlotte Hornets.

This obviously isn't a blockbuster deal. However, it's a smart move that will help the Thunder as they try to make a deep playoff run and compete for a championship this year. Let's look at why this deal makes so much sense for the Thunder and how Hayward will help out his new team.

Despite his age, Gordon Hayward is still a valuable offensive player

First things first, Gordon Hayward is far removed from his prime. Do not expect him to be a 20-point-per-game scorer like he was with the Jazz in 2016. That's not who he is anymore and it would be unrealistic to expect him to turn back the clock and play at an all-star level.

However, he's still a very solid player and he can provide a lot of value offensively. This season, he is averaging around 15 points, five assists, and just two turnovers per game while shooting 46.8 percent from the field and 36.1 percent from behind the arc.

Hayward has a unique skill set for his size as he is a plus passer and shooter while also being 6-foot-7 and weighing 225 pounds. Here are the nine forwards who are currently averaging 14 points per game, shooting 35 percent from three, and have an assist rate of 20 percent:

  • Kevin Durant
  • Jimmy Butler
  • LeBron James
  • Jalen Williams
  • Zion Williamson
  • Brandon Ingram
  • Paolo Banchero
  • Khris Middleton
  • Gordon Hayward

That's an awesome group to be a part of. Looking at these numbers, it's clear to see why the Thunder were interested in trading multiple players to get him.

While Hayward does a lot of valuable things on the offensive end of the floor, he does have some major weaknesses. For starters, he is extremely injury-prone. He hasn't played 60 games in a season since 2018 and he has played just 25 games this year due to hamstring and calf injuries.

Also, as he gets older, he is getting worse in terms of scoring efficiency and overall offensive impact. His true shooting percentage and offensive catch-all metrics like offensive box plus-minus have decreased each year since 2019 and there's no guarantee that this will stop. Hopefully, a new role where he plays off the ball more often in Oklahoma City will see him improve in these areas. This is definitely something to keep your eye on.

Gordon Hayward could change the Thunder's starting lineup

It will be interesting to see if Gordon Hayward starts or comes off the bench for the Thunder. There's an argument for the team to go in either direction, but it might make more sense for the team to put Hayward in the starting lineup.

The Thunder has been amazing this season, but there is one huge issue with their starting lineup: Josh Giddey. This is strictly in regard to his issues on the court, though his accusation of having an improper relationship with a minor from earlier this season should not be taken lightly.

Giddey is a talented young player with strong court vision, but he can't shoot from distance and he needs the ball in his hands to provide the most value possible. He simply isn't a good fit next to Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Jalen Williams and the Thunder could use another wing who can shoot and pass to improve their starting five.

Gordon Hayward would be a better fit next to the Thunder's star creators than Giddey. His ability to shoot and pass makes him a seamless fit in this lineup and we could even see his advanced metrics improve in a different role in which he would have less on his plate.

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Overall, this is a great low-risk trade that could greatly benefit the Thunder and improve their offensive output. It will be interesting to see how Hayward impacts the team and whether or not he helps them make a deep run in the playoffs.