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Gordon Hayward Is The Low-Effort King Of The Playoffs

Gordon Hayward #33 of the Oklahoma City Thunder arrives to the arena before the game against the New Orleans Pelicans during Round 1 Game 4 of the 2024 NBA Playoffs on April 29, 2024 at the Smoothie King Center in New Orleans, Louisiana.
Jeff Haynes/NBAE via Getty Images

During the regular season, it was common to hear pundits and analysts fret about the Oklahoma City Thunder's lack of size. Much of this fretting gave way to advice-giving: The Thunder should crack open their treasure chest of picks and acquire a big man at the trade deadline. The Thunder didn't do that, but so far all the worrying seems to have happened without cause, as evidenced by the fact that the Thunder are now 5-0 in postseason play following last night's Game 1 victory over Dallas.

The Thunder did make a trade at the deadline, though, just not for a big man. They sent a couple of second-round picks and roster filler to Charlotte in exchange for 34-year-old swingman Gordon Hayward. You remember Gordon Hayward, right? The former all-star, the former face of the Utah Jazz, the guy who was meant to take the Boston Celtics to new heights before his foot got put on backward, the guy who spent the last three seasons effectively but anonymously toiling away in Charlotte. Well guess what? He's now the most interesting player in the playoffs.

Hayward played seven minutes in last night's 117-95 win. He attempted one shot, scored zero points, and grabbed one rebound. Let's check out that highlight reel:

Hayward has played in every one of the Thunder's playoff games so far, and that missed tip-in from last night was just his second shot attempt of the postseason (his first was a pull-up jumper in transition during Game 2 against the Pelicans). Hayward has now played 38 minutes in this postseason, and in those minutes he has gone 0-of-2 from the field, grabbed 10 rebounds, dished two assists, and shot zero free throws. His most productive outing was Game 1 of the first round, when he stuffed the stat sheet with two rebounds, one assist, one steal, and one block. It has become impossible to watch Thunder games and not come away with the impression that Hayward, during his short stints on the floor, is doing everything he can to contribute as little as possible to what is shaping up to be a deep postseason run.

There's really no good explanation for this. Hayward is aging, sure, but he's not totally washed up. He was scoring 14 points a game and shooting 36 percent from three-point range in Charlotte this season. Those are precisely the kinds of numbers that jump out when a contending team goes looking for a wily veteran to come aboard and hit a few big shots in the playoffs. It's not like Hayward is a long-serving member of the team who keeps getting run for sentimental reasons, either. Presumably Mark Daigneault keep's calling Hayward's number because he wants him to take and make the shots that the Thunder gave up a modest pile of assets to secure access to. Daigneault has other good options, too. The Thunder are stocked with springy, young, and interchangeable wings who seem to relish every minute they get on the floor, and yet there's Hayward, just kind jogging around and getting some cardio in the tank for seven to 10 minutes every game.

According to Basketball Reference, Hayward is the fourth player in NBA history to play more than 36 minutes in a single postseason without scoring a point. He just needs another four minutes of scoreless game time in order to pass Miye Oni (2021) and Nate McMillan (1997) on that list and move into second place behind John Hummer, who played 68 damn minutes for the Supersonics in the 1975 playoffs without scoring.

This is now all I care about this postseason. I want Hayward to keep getting minutes and refusing to even look at the basket as the Thunder rip through the Western Conference and then slay the Boston Celtics to win the NBA title. I want the season to end with Hayward, having played in every game without contributing a single point, tearfully cradling the Larry O'Brien trophy before planting a big, wet, smooch on it. Then I want him to look into the nearest camera and remind everyone in the quietest voice possible, that anything is possible.

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