Gordon Hayward and his Butler Bulldogs were the media darlings of the Sweet Sixteen – an overlooked prospect who hustled, hit shots and led his underdog team to the Championship Game.
The 6’8″ sophomore is a true small forward and could step in from Day 1 rand contribute in a meaningful fashion to the team’s offense. He has a natural shot with a high release and should have no problem hitting an outside shot regularly. His defense is thought to be shaky and his foot speed less than ideal, but I have confidence that his natural athleticism will allow him to improve those flaws. He was a highly-ranked amateur tennis player before a growth spurt improved his basketball status and put him on the radar to bigger programs.
So why should the Clippers use the 8th pick to draft Hayward?
Hayward has the potential to be a bona fide star in the league. He’s on track to be a premier shooter, has shown a knack to get to the boards and succeeded in a high-stress situation in March’s NCAA Tournament. He would fit in nicely with the Clippers’ offense right away and would pair nicely with Blake Griffin to make up a supremely marketable rookie duo.
Why would the Clippers want to pass on Hayward?
If you’re nitpicking, you could make the case that Hayward’s upside is a known commodity and that there’s little “magic” in drafting a guy of his style. He hasn’t shown a consistent ability to create offense for himself off the dribble and could fall victim to prolonged slumps if his shot isn’t dropping.