Earlier this month, Utah Jazz G/F Gordon Hayward was named as one of the 19 players invited by USA Basketball to the team’s Las Vegas training camp. Although the competition on the wings would be stiff with the likes of Paul George, James Harden, Kevin Durant and others also in camp, Hayward would have a shot to make the final roster for this summer’s FIBA World Cup. With the news that Blake Griffin is deciding to withdraw coming down earlier this week and now with Kevin Love electing to do the same, Hayward’s chances may be improving.
With Durant, Harden and George being solidified as cornerstones of the squad, Hayward’s main competition for a roster spot was DeMar DeRozan, Klay Thompson, Bradley Beal, Kyle Korver and Chandler Parsons. What gave Hayward a chance in the competition with those players was his ability to make plays for others with his court vision, his rebounding and his ability to defend multiple positions and recover well with his length. It is exactly that versatility that makes him a more viable option to make the team given the departures of Griffin and Love.
Along with Parsons, Hayward has the size to slide up and play as an athletic four or stretch big at times for Team USA. In the past, coach Mike Krzyzewski has used Andre Iguodala and Rudy Gay in a similar role. Although some have opined that the team could reach out to a player like Al Jefferson, statements from the director of USA Basketball, Jerry Colangelo, seem to indicate that the final roster will be comprised of players already invited to camp.
DeMarcus Cousins and Andre Drummond will receive more consideration as well (Cousins could be a shoo-in at this point) as they are legit big men, but with all signs pointing toward the United States now employing a smaller, more athletic attack for the World Cup in Spain, Hayward’s stock may be on the rise in Vegas.
He’s not the shooter that Korver or Thompson are. He may be less athletic than DeRozan, and the ridiculous comparisons with Parsons that prevailed during free agency are undoubtedly ongoing. But unlike those players, Hayward literally does a little bit of everything on the basketball court. For a national team that will have to do some mixing and matching this summer, a player as pliable and multi-faceted as Hayward could be invaluable.