Kyle Singler 1, Gordon Hayward 0

April 7, 2010 – 1:47 pm by Ryan Phillips

I’ve had two days to digest Monday night’s National Title game. It was fantastic. One of the best, closest, most evenly matched sporting events I’ve ever witnessed. One thing I can’t get out of my head though, is that I still think Butler should have come out on top. There’s one reason for that: Gordon Hayward didn’t play up to his ability.

I really like Hayward. He’s a fantastic kid, a great story and a really nice player. Over the past month scouts have been salivating over his ability to shoot and get to the hoop with regularity against great college competition, and how unfazed he was by the spotlight and the big moments. But on Monday night we finally saw Hayward be overwhelmed. We finally saw a chink in the armor.

Let me again preface this by saying I really like Hayward. In a previous post I stated that I thought the sophomore should stick around for another year and develop his game and strength even further. Some people took that as me knocking his ability. That is not the case. I think it would benefit him tremendously to stick around for another season and Monday night proved that I’m right.

Hayward – who was supposed to be the best player on the floor at the Final Four – finished the title game with 12 points and eight rebounds. He was an abysmal 2-for-11 from the field, and one of those makes was a put-back when he wasn’t blocked out. He was 0-for-3 from behind the 3-point line and his line was saved by going a perfect 8-for-8 from the charity stripe.

So what happened to that free flowing, gorgeous offensive game that Hayward supposedly has? Kyle Singler’s defense happened.

Singler stole the title of best player on the floor at the Final Four from Hayward. He stepped up and dropped 19 points, grabbed nine rebounds, had two assists, one steal and two huge blocks. He was 7-for-13 from the field, including 3-of-6 from beyond the arc. But Singler’s biggest contribution to Duke’s title-winning performance was his defense on Hayward.

Singler projects as not much more than a second round pick at the moment. I’m sure his performance in the tournament helped him a little but he shows little or no upside physically and the junior probably needs to take advantage of his final year to polish his game.

So if Hayward could be utterly shutdown and made to look pedestrian by a guy who is no more than a second rounder in the NBA, what does that say about where his game is currently?

During the final game Hayward looked tentative. His cuts weren’t as sharp, his ball-handling wasn’t perfect and his shot was off. He also never displayed a sense of urgency. I realize Butler’s whole mantra was that they were a team where everyone could step up and make plays, but at no point did Hayward – the Bulldogs’ best player – demand the ball and press the issue. Great players can take the ball and tell the defender what they’re going to do and still accomplish it, “I’m taking the ball, I’m going to go right there, I’m going to shoot and I’m going to score.” Hayward had shown that earlier in the year against inferior competition, but against Duke and Singler that instinct abandoned him.

His decision making on Butler’s final full possession was questionable as well. Rather than make a move and pull-up over Singler (who he has an inch on height-wise), he drove to the right side, and shot a fade away jumper over 7-footer Brian Zoubek. It almost fell in, which shows that Hayward can get his shot off and up, but it was still a head-scratching decision.

The fact that he couldn’t get to the basket past Singler all night is a huge red flag as well. Part of the appeal of Hayward has been his diverse offensive game. But if a decent, but not otherworldly defender could completely shut him down, what’s going to happen at the next level? If Hayward can’t get to the hoop that makes him nothing more than a 6’9 jump shooter. While those are nice to have, they’re not what you want to spend a high lottery pick on.

If Heyward comes back he can put some strength onto his base – which will make him more difficult to post up on – and add some quickness in the offseason. Strength and quickness could turn him into the player he’s projected to become, while giving him time to sharpen his shot (he finished the season hitting just 29 percent of his 3-pointers.

He’ll also return to a loaded Butler squad. Coach Brad Stevens isn’t going anywhere, the Bulldogs have an excellent recruiting class and they only lose Willie Veasley and Avery Jukes among their major contributors. Hayward would be an early favorite for national player of the year and Butler would also be a favorite to make another Final Four run. A year in the spotlight would give Hayward even more of a chance to impress and improve his stock.

Besides, if you’re going to be a high lottery pick you have to be a guy people watch and say “My team has to have that guy now.” Is anyone else in the country salivating over Gordon Hayward right now? Aside from Larry Bird – who pays tall white players ridiculous sums of money like it’s going of style – I don’t think so. Oh and by the way Larry, Austin Croshere delivered a pizza to my place last week.

I just hope it’s clear to all those around Gordon Hayward that he needs another year to develop.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...

  1. 7 Responses to “Kyle Singler 1, Gordon Hayward 0”

  2. I agree that Hayward should spend another year in school and could have played a better game on Monday, but in fairness, he had a lot less pressure on him to carry the load for his team than Singler did. Relatedly, Singler also had a lot of big help behind him on defense.

    And given what a monumental moment it would have been had Butler pulled it off, there was more pressure on Hayward in that way too.

    By Cleveland Frowns on Apr 7, 2010

  3. You’re right that he looked too tentative during that final play. I thought it should have run through Haywood, especially when Zubeck stepped out to defend Hayward. Zip the pass inside for a lay-up, maybe a foul, and you’ve got the lead and Duke has to go the length of the floor.

    But, hell, if that last shot would have dropped in (not the buzzer-heave), he’d be the toast of the college basketball world right now.

    By MJenks on Apr 7, 2010

  4. I am so sick of the “what ifs”! “Only if Butler would’ve made the shot.” “This should’ve been the hoosier story.” “Duke stole the feel good story.” Two excellent teams played, and the beter team won. I really wish people would stop trying to overshadow a team that was never even considered to win it all this year. Eventhough they got a 1 seed, no one expected them to get to the final four! Give credit where credit is due and stop using the “feel good story” that never happened, as a way to overshadow a great effort by the Blue Devils.

    By BPoints on Apr 8, 2010

  5. Wow…sour grapes from a fan of the team that won. Dookies just won’t give up the persecution complex will they?

    By Booter on Apr 8, 2010

  6. singler rarely even manned up against hayward. it was mostly duke’s guards who played defense on him.

    By Anonymous on Apr 8, 2010

  7. Anonymous,
    Not true. I’ve watched the game three times, Singler was on Hayward rough 90 percent of the game. The only time the guards took him was when helping Singler.

    By Phillips on Apr 8, 2010

  8. Kyle Singler may well end up being a solid mid to late 1st round pick in this year’s draft. Kyle Singler is a much better basketball player than Gordon Hayward that has been touted as such since High School when he was 1st team all-american over Beasley, griffin, turner, etc. Kyle Singler is a beast and rises up in big games. Hayward is a good player in a good conference. He obviously met his match against Singler, and he lost. Singler is the master STallion and Hayward is a pony.

    By Nathan Beard on Apr 16, 2010

Post a Comment