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Gordon Hayward has been the Utah Jazz's do-it-all star over the past three seasons not just the straw that stirs the milkshake, but ice cream, the soda jerk, and the napkin, too.
But the Jazz's new starting point has a different vision for the team's leading scorer.
"He's kind of like our cherry on top of the ice cream," George Hill said recently. "We have to be the whip cream and the shake. He's the top of it."
Moving the metaphor away from the counter and onto the court, that means giving Hayward some of the support he's sorely lacked during his stint as Utah's top offensive threat.
In each of his last three campaigns, Hayward has seen his scoring average increase, from 16.2 points per game three season ago to 19.3 and up to 19.7 last season. With another year of experience, Hayward figures to remain the Jazz's No. 1 option and their leading scorer again this season. But a better supporting cast led by the arrival of Hill from the Indiana Pacers could be exactly what Hayward needs to leap into a higher echelon of NBA scorers.
"I want to take a little pressure off him," Hill said, "and make it a little easier for him to use his scoring abilities."
Hayward wouldn't mind the extra help.
Last season, about 45 percent of Hayward's field goals were assisted. That number puts him in the middle of the pack among the league's top 25 scorers from a year ago, but at the low end among the forwards in that category.
"What a lot of guys in Gordon's position get that Gordon hasn't got is somebody to get him some easy shots from time to time," said Rob Blackwell, a trainer who has worked with both Hayward and Hill at St. Vincent Sports Performance in Indianapolis. "Gordon really labors to create his own opportunities."
The Jazz hope that will change now, at least a little. Hayward's all-around game is what makes him one of the best small forwards in the NBA and Jazz coach Quin Snyder will want the ball in his star player's hands plenty, creating for others and exploiting mismatches for himself.
Hayward hasn't had any troubles scoring through his first two games of the preseason, averaging 16 points on nine shots in those contests. And while it's too soon to tell how much Hill's presence might impact Hayward's role on the court, the two Hoosiers who already have some rapport from summertime workouts and pickup games in Indiana have high hopes for what Hill's arrival in Salt Lake will mean.
"I was definitely excited when I got that phone call," said Hayward recalling the day he first heard the Jazz would trade their first-round draft pick for the veteran point guard.
Hill gives the Jazz another shooter (he hit nearly 41 percent of his 3-pointers last season) to give Hayward extra space to work and another ball-handler to take pressure of Hayward, who has sometimes struggled with turnovers in late-game situations.
"Coach Quin, that's one of the things he's best at, is putting guys in situations where they can be successful," Hayward said. "Whether that's me having the ball or George having the ball … we'll take it. Just having another weapon is really good for our team."
And that should be good for Hayward, too.
"If Gordon's not going, George can get him going," Blackwell said. "And if he is going, he can keep him going. … I think George can improve [Hayward's scoring average by] 3-5 points a night," he said, "and make him one of the elite players."
Gordon Hayward stats
Year PPG FGM %AST*
2010-11 5.4 75.4
2011-12 11.8 73.0
2012-13 14.1 68.8
2013-14 16.2 50.0
2014-15 19.3 43.8
2015-16 19.7 45.3
*Percentage of Made Field Goals Assisted