* Each weekday for the rest of the month, we’ll put a member of the 2019-20 Celtics, and one of their most notable statistics, under the microscope while assessing their season and what lies ahead:
That is Boston’s offensive rating in the 349 minutes that Gordon Hayward shared the court with the trio of Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown, and Kemba Walker last season. That’s 1.2 points per 100 possessions better than the Dallas Mavericks, who led the NBA with an already absurd offensive rating of 115.9 (or 2.6 points per 100 possessions better than the next closest team).
Boston had a net rating of plus-9.6 with the four-man lineup of Hayward/Brown/Tatum/Walker, which accentuates the potential of this team when Hayward is healthy.
What went right for Hayward in 2020
Hayward was trending toward All-Star consideration with a solid start to the 2019-20 campaign, which saw him average 18.9 points, 7.1 rebounds, and 4.1 assists over 31.2 minutes per game in eight appearances before he broke his hand in a freak collision in San Antonio.
Masked a bit by the leaps of Tatum and Brown, Hayward was excellent from Christmas until the league’s March shutdown, shooting nearly 40 percent beyond the 3-point arc in that span. A healthy Hayward looked like a potential difference-maker inside the bubble but …
What went wrong for Hayward in 2020
Ankle injuries remain the story of Hayward’s time in green. He missed 12 playoff games while rehabbing from a grade III ankle sprain suffered in Boston’s playoff opener against Philadelphia. He returned in Game 3 of the East finals against Miami and gave his team a much-needed jolt.
Alas, he was a shell of himself the remainder of the series, blowing easy layups in Game 5 while looking uncertain and clearly hindered by the ankle. Hayward deserves credit for trying to tough it out on the big stage, including missing the birth of a child, but ultimately the Celtics were left wondering what might have been if he had been at full health.
Early outlook for Hayward for 2021
Hayward holds a $34.2 million player option for the 2021 season and seems likely to opt in. Advanced metrics show that Boston plays some of its best basketball with a healthy Hayward and, more importantly, the team tends to thrive when he’s the focal point of reserve units while players like Tatum and Brown are on the bench.
Trade chatter will linger because of the possibility that Hayward could walk away after the season and the team’s performance early in 2021 could dictate whether the Celtics need to consider that avenue stronger.