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Replacing Gordon Hayward


Charlotte Hornets v Boston Celtics Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images

Losing Gordon Hayward for the season is a real tough break.

Too soon?

Sorry, let me start over: the loss of Gordon Hayward in the 1st quarter of the season is a real twist.

No? Too mean?

Okay, how about: replacing Gordon Hayward will require a real performance, so break a leg out there!

Still no?

Okay, then, let’s just get to the point: what do you do as a fantasy owner if Hayward’s on your team? Obviously I feel bad for Gordon and his family, but what we’re all really thinking is FUDGE! FUDGE FUDGE FUDGE!!! SIX MINUTES INTO THE SEASON, ARE YOU KIDDING ME!

I don’t have Gordon Hayward on my fantasy team but I feel like if I did, I’d feel a little upset. But, mainly concerned for the Hayward family. But, a teensy weensy lil bit upset, too. But, it’s only a game, so thank God everyone’s okay in real life. But, still: 2nd round, man; like, you and your ankle kiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiinda cost me, Gordon. Just saying. Just saying. Sigh.

But! I don’t have Hayward (Thank GOD, amirite?) so let’s just examine what you could do to replace the poor Hoosier with the radical sweet ‘do.

First, here are a couple of facts that might make you feel a little better:

  • Gordon Hayward was ranked 33rd on the ESPN player rater last year. Serge Ibaka was ranked 34th. Do you consider Serge Ibaka to be irreplaceable? Me, neither.
  • Gordon Hayward scored 22 points per game last year. Brook Lopez scored 20.5. Not a huge difference, right? Hayward was expected to score more this year, but remember, he was going to be second fiddle in scoring to Kyrie (because Kyrie is way, way better at offense), so maybe he doesn’t actually score that much more, on average.
  • Gordon Hayward put up 5 threes a game last year. This probably would have gone up. But, Boogie Cousins and Danilo Gallinari also shot 5 threes a game last season. People, errybuddy’s shooting more threes. Y’know how the Cincinnati Reds’ entire infield had over 20 home runs EACH this season? That’s what will happen with threes this year: they are going to SKYROCKET. EVERYONE will shoot threes.
  • Hayward shot 39.8% on his threes. So did Jae Crowder. You know what else? Hayward’s plus-minus for the season was 4.8; so was Jae Crowder’s!! Now, get real, Hayward is better than Crowder, but maybe the difference isn’t as great as we thought? Crowder looked good in Cleveland on opening night, I thought.

Hopefully, you’re feeling a little bit better because you’ve realized that Hayward’s production wasn’t unique, or even rare. You can definitely duplicate his production either by streaming, if you’re in a daily league; trading him for a win-now piece in a legacy league; or picking up one of his playing time heirs on the Celtics if you’re in a one-year league. I mean, don’t get me wrong, losing your second-best dude is a disadvantage, but injuries happen, other dudes have gone done (Jeremy Lin, Nic Batum, Rondo, Mirotic, etc.), and the season is long: dudes will appear and take advantage of playing time opportunities. Being Wally Pipps is a real MFer but creative destruction is beneficial. Besides, don’t ever begrudge Lou Gehrig! That’s bad mojo, for sure.

Here are a few dudes who might be available in your leagues. Since we only have one or two games’ data, I’ve included their true shooting percentage, which is a fairly good representation of a player’s offense, taking into account three pointers and free throws. 55% is good, 60% is great, anything better is EEEEEEEElite!

  • Jaylen Brown (34 mins, 58 TS%) - Brown, Tatum and Smart will benefit the most from Hayward’s absence. If any of them are available, if all of them are available, I’d pick them up. I think Brown’s the best, but Smart will fill the stat cats, too.
  • Evan Fournier (34 mins, 64% TS) - I don’t have a good feeling about Orlando this season, I think they have too many (mediocre) players, but I think that Aaron Gordon and Fournier are better than the team, and so will be playing to either get traded or cost a ton of money.
  • Tobias Harris (34 mins, 73 TS%) - This really surprised me. Toby is the Man, Go Pistons Forever, but that was a surriously good game. He probably won’t be that good all year, but if you can trade Hayward for him, then I’d do it. Let the other owner stash Hayward, you’ll get Harris’s production (and, his youth).
  • Buddy Hield (32 mins, 56 TS%) - I’m tracking Buddy all season. I want to know if Vivek Ranadive is right about him being the next Steph Curry. You might want to pick him up, JUST IN CASE. He had a purty good second half last year.

Like I said, it’s a little tough to offer advice because the season is so young. Here are some guys available in my fantasy league (12 team legacy), which could help guide you:

  • Marvin Williams, 37% ownership: there’s nothing sexy about Marv but he’s absolutely solid and will help you fill stat cats. He’s underpriced filler and having dependable stability after a sudden loss like Hayward or Lin is usually smarter than shooting for the moon and wasting a roster spot on a dud.
  • JR Smith, 17% ownership: JR’s minutes might not go down that much, especially if Ty Lue rests Wade more than less. JR wants to be a starter, and if he stays upset, he might get traded (along with the Brooklyn pick). I wouldn’t pick him up to replace Hayward, but keep an eye on him.
  • Danny Green, 9%: Danny Green had a great game. It might finally be his time in San Antonio. If he strings together a couple more games like this, then you should pick him up immediately.
  • Jeremy Lamb, 5%: Lamb is starting, so you might as well give him a shot. I’d take him over JR Smith.
  • Ditto Marco Bellinelli (2% ownership): remember, this is the last year that teams can tank in the old way, so a team like the Hawks is probably looking to trade away assets for picks, so showcasing Marco is in their best interest. He might be able to put together a month plus of great volume.
  • Alec Burks, 1%: When Burks stepped onto the court, the entire Jazz offense changed. I have no idea if this is sustainable but NBAers have always believed in Burks; if this is his breakout year, then you’ll find yourself asking, “Gordon who?”