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Boston Celtics: Is the real Gordon Hayward back?

After a season-ending injury in his first game with the Boston Celtics last season, Gordon Hayward had struggled to play like himself, until recently.

Prior to joining the Boston Celtics in free agency in 2017, Gordon Hayward was beloved by Utah Jazz fans, leading them to their first playoff appearance in four years. Hayward was drafted ninth overall by the Jazz in 2010 and had never played for another team until joining the Celtics.

In his final season in a Jazz uniform, Gordon averaged 21.9 points, 5.4 rebounds and 3.5 assists per game on 39.8 percent shooting from deep. He also was voted to his first ever All-Star game, which was even more impressive being in the Western Conference.

Hayward would be reunited his former college coach Brad Stevens in Boston, which was a big selling point for him in choosing whether to re-sign with Utah or go elsewhere. Although Hayward would not be expected to be the team leader in Boston, since he would be joining All-Stars Kyrie Irving and Al Horford, there were still high expectations for him on one of the best new teams in the NBA.

In his very first game with the Boston Celtics on opening night of the 2017-18 NBA season, Hayward played just five minutes before suffering a gruesome, season-ending leg injury. After a long year of rehab and recovery, he joined the team once again to start the 2018-19 season.

On Nov. 17, the struggling Celtics fell to the Jazz and decided it was time to shake up their lineup. Since then, Hayward has primarily come off the bench and looked to contribute in a sixth man role. At that point in the season, he was averaging 10.1 points per game on 29.8 percent 3-point shooting.

Since being inserted into the bench unit, Hayward has averaged 11.7 points per game on 34.1 percent shooting from deep. Over this span, Hayward has produced three 30-point games, including a brilliant 35-point performance in a huge win against the Golden State Warriors. He also hit a clutch game-winner against the Sacramento Kings in early March.

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Although it was only a small, four-game sample size, in the month of April leading up to the playoffs, Hayward averaged 18.3 points and 5.3 rebounds per game, including 40 percent shooting from beyond the arc and 94.4 percent from the free throw line.

Getting scoring production from Gordon Hayward has been extremely important for Boston. Although he only started 18 games in the regular season, he is still one of their most important players.

Did you know..

The Boston Celtics are

(18-4, .818) when Gordon Hayward has ≥ 12 points

And

(19-19, .500) when Gordon Hayward has ≤ 11 points or does not play

— Boston Sports Info (@bostonsportsinf) February 25, 2019

Hayward finished the season averaging 11.5 points, 5.4 assists and 3.4 assists per game. In a first round sweep of the Indiana Pacers, he scored 12.3 points per game on 44.4 percent shooting from deep.

As the season has gone on, Gordon Hayward has slowly started to get more comfortable in his role in Boston, slowly creeping back toward his pre-injury statistics.

It is tough to say if the real Gordon Hayward is back, considering nobody expected him to produce the same numbers he did when he was the star in Utah. The flashes of greatness we’ve seen with the 30-point games and buzzer-beaters indicate that Hayward may, in fact, be himself once again.

With two years left on his contract, Hayward will look to continue to contribute Boston’s 2019 playoff push, as well as building on that success in future seasons.

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