Fratello’s Fantasy Pick

Utah Jazz v Denver NuggetsWhen the Utah Jazz selected 6’8” Gordon Hayward ninth overall in the 2010 NBA Draft, they were expecting a solid player with a high hoops IQ who could score, board and dish. But they probably didn’t anticipate that the 23-year-old would become their squad’s leader in his fourth pro season.

The Indiana native spent two years at Butler University under coach Brad Stevens. In his sophomore season Hayward was named the West Region’s MVP in the NCAA Tournament. He led the Bulldogs to the national championship game, where he missed a game-winning, buzzer-beating, half-court shot that bounced off the rim and backboard.

The Jazz, at 19-33, have endured a tough schedule in the brutal Western Conference. Hayward has competed in 47 of Utah’s 52 contests thus far and leads his team in scoring and floor time with 16.3 ppg and 36.3 mpg. He also averages 5.6 rpg, 5 apg and 1.4 spg. And Hayward has season highs of 13 rebounds, 12 assists, 4 blocks and 4 steals.

Hayward is a career 82% from the charity stripe, and his scoring numbers have improved in each of his seasons with the Jazz. Hayward scored a career-high 37 points in a win against the mighty OKC Thunder on January 7th. He added 11 boards, 7 dimes and 2 steals in the upset.

Utah is having a down year with little or no chance of making the playoffs. Hayward’s name has been brought up in trade rumors recently. If he is dealt to a new team, the change of environment could add to his production. If he remains in Salt Lake, he’ll be putting up chunky numbers to show Jazz executives that he’s a max-level player in this off-season.

Either way, Hayward would be a solid pick-up for any fantasy GM trying to bolster his roster with approximately 40% of the regular season remaining.

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