Coach Mike Krzyzewski and USA Basketball have set their roster for the upcoming FIBA World Cup, and Utah Jazz guard/forward Gordon Hayward will not be part of it. Also on the outs with Team USA are Damian Lillard, Kyle Korver and Chandler Parsons. The news comes as a disappointment to fans of Hayward and the Jazz, but good things remain in store for the Butler product.
Throughout his time with the senior national team, it has been apparent that Hayward is in the best shape of his life. The added strength will be a boon to Hayward and his ability to play with contact, as well as give Utah the option to slide him up to the power forward position as needed.
Heading into his college career, Hayward was tipping the scales at less than 200 pounds. Though he has gained weight and strength since joining the NBA, he’s still been known as a player who was slight of build. After living in the weight room since the end of last season, he now checks in at around 230. His new-found size and strength combined with his versatility as a player puts him in stead with players like Andre Iguodala and Rudy Gay.
Coincidentally, it was Gay’s addition to the US team that may have made Hayward expendable on the squad. Following the injury to Paul George, it appeared as though Hayward’s chances to make the squad had greatly improved. His ability to see the floor, provide effort on defense, hit the passing lanes, and play multiple positions meshed well with their team concept.
However, following Kevin Durant‘s departure, Coach K decided he needed another big-time scorer who could play heavy minutes at the four spot. Gay had done that for Team USA in a previous FIBA tournament. Krzyzewski also liked the size and effort provided by young centers Andre Drummond and Mason Plumlee. These factors combined to change the team’s dynamic and hurt Hayward’s ability to catch on with the squad.
Does this mean that these players are better than Hayward? Absolutely not. Anyone who tells you players like Kenneth Faried, Drummond and Plumlee are better than the likes of Hayward, John Wall or Lillard isn’t living in reality. They simply fit the mold of what USA Basketball was looking for in constructing their team following some unfortunate losses. Hayward’s time with the program remains an invaluable experience in his development.
He can still use this experience as a springboard for future success, aided in no small part by the new system that will be instituted by Jazz coach Quin Snyder this season. As they did last year, the team will rely on Hayward to provide scoring. With him now having experience in that role, an offensive system that complements his skill set and with better players surrounding him, the end result should improve for Hayward.
So while it’s disappointing that Hayward won’t be a part of the national team this summer, there’s still a lot to be excited for with Hayward and the Jazz.