The voting for the 2017 NBA All-Star game opened up this past week. I know most of us are pretty burned-out and jaded about the whole “voting” concept this year, but rest assured, there is no electoral college in the NBA. It’s important that your NBA voice be heard, so I’m out here on the campaign trail in support of Gordon Hayward representing the Utah Jazz in this season’s All-Star game. By campaign trail, I mean my neighborhood Starbucks and my MacBook.
In the past two seasons, Hayward has lingered around the conversation for All-Star selection, but he's yet to actually make it. During that time, he’s been more of what I like to call ‘First Team All-Fringe.’ Just teetering on the edge of being All-Star worthy.
It’s not entirely his fault; the West is just too stacked at forward to constitute an All-Star spot for a player averaging below 20 ppg. Also, people voted Kobe Bryant in the one year he didn't deserve it, becoming overly emotional and conveniently forgetting they spent 20 years hating him.
But Hayward has hit a new high this season, which has sparked a more serious conversation about his candidacy for All-Star selection.
Before we continue, let’s all come to an agreement that All-Star players are selected primarily for their offensive presence. It’s why this article doesn’t have anything to do with Rudy Gobert. Voting for defense in an All-Star game is like voting for Gary Johnson.
Okay, two election quips is enough — you get the point.
So far this season, Hayward has put up a career high average of 22.4 points across 25 games on a very efficient .448. This puts him at 17th best in points per game and right on that All-Star level threshold.
In a season mired with injuries (including his own), Hayward has been the catalyst on offense for the Jazz. The Jazz started the season without him at just 3-3, and many fans began to question if we had all overrated this team. But from the moment Hayward debuted in MSG and dropped in 28 to lead the Jazz over a tight win against the Knicks, it was clear that this offense was going to go as far as he could push it.
That being said, Hayward still hasn’t had a big break-out performance or many heart-stopping plays, and most of his best performances have come against lower ranking defensive teams. In addition, being on the Jazz doesn’t do him any favors, as the casual fan has yet to take notice of how good this team actually is.
So for those reasons, it’s difficult to claim that Hayward should win the fan vote to give him a starting spot in the ASG. But as far as being selected as a reserve player, he should be a no-brainer.
Looking back at last year’s western conference All-Star roster, there are already gaps to fill in on the front court this year. Bryant has retired and although LaMarcus Aldridge hasn’t exactly seen a significant drop off statistically, it’s enough to push the idea that someone else should take that spot. It also appears that age is setting in on LMA, as he’s not as efficient as last year.
In a similar fashion, Draymond Green has actually had his numbers dip quite a bit, and even though he’s just as efficient as always for the Warriors, he’s easily replaceable on this year’s All-Star team.
It’s plausible to say that we may be seeing one or both of these players left off the roster this year. As far as front court players go, nobody has done more to deserve that spot than Gordon Hayward.
Something like this could mean a lot, both to Hayward and Utah fans. And not just for the novelty aspect of it. There’s a lot of pride and confidence that takes over in a player when he’s selected as an All-Star. It’s the sense of assurance that “I belong here.” For a player like Hayward — who is leading the offense of a team poised to be a competitive playoff team and also looking for all the financial leverage he can acquire going into this off-season — that boost of confidence can do wonders.
The Jazz haven’t had an All-Star representative since Deron Williams in 2011. Williams was traded to the Nets just days later. That’s nearly six years without a player from the Jazz being selected. The Timberwolves, Suns, 76ers, Nets, Magic, Kings, Pistons and Pelicans have all had players selected to the ASG in this time span.
The last time the Jazz had an All-Star representative, New Orleans was still the Hornets, and that makes me sick. To clarify — the fact that we actually allowed New Orleans to be the Hornets makes me sick.
The only other franchises to not have an All-Star representative during this time are Milwaukee and Charlotte, and we can expect that to change thanks to Giannis Antetokounmpo and Kemba Walker. So why not the Jazz? Why not Gordon Hayward?