The Utah Jazz had lost eight of their last 10 games as they came into Saturday night’s game against the Memphis Grizzlies. Over that time, they had also dropped out of the eight-seed in the NBA’s Western Conference. On Saturday, head coach Tyrone Corbin decided to make a change and start Gordon Hayward at small forward in place of DeMarre Carroll. As it turns out, that was a terrific move by Corbin.
In the 90-84 victory over Memphis, Hayward played phenomenally. In 38 minutes, he notched 17 points, eight rebounds, three assists and one steal. He also shot 5-10 from the field and 3-6 from beyond-the-arc in the game. All of those statistics exceed his season averages of 14.1 points, three rebounds, 2.7 assists and 0.8 steals per game on 42.4 percent shooting from the floor and 40 percent shooting from three.
Saturday was Hayward’s 11th start of the season, but just his first since November and his first at the small forward. In the 10 games that he started at shooting guard, Hayward averaged 13.3 points, 3.3 rebounds, 2.1 assists and 0.9 steals per game while shooting 44.9 percent from the field and 32.3 percent from long-range.
The reason that Hayward was able to have more success in his start as small forward is because of the match-up troubles that he causes. He plays and shoots much like a shooting guard, but at 6’8” he has the size and length that he can match-up with small forwards on both ends of the floor. This allows the floor and the game to open up for him.
As the Jazz attempt to crawl back into the playoff race, Hayward is going to be extremely important for them. He’s arguably their biggest offensive-threat on the perimeter and causes problems on defense. Corbin has the right idea by inserting him into the role of starting small forward and it should pay dividends for Utah down the stretch.