Can the Celtics overcome Gordon Hayward’s absence?

It was announced Tuesday that Gordon Hayward will miss at least four weeks with an ankle sprain.  Hayward left Monday’s game 1 win over the Sixers in the fourth quarter after twisting his ankle when coming down from a rebound attempt.

After some ups and downs in 2018-19, his first full season with the Celtics, Hayward was beginning to show the consistent production that we saw during his All-Star days in Utah.  In 52 games this season, he averaged 17.5 points, 6.7 rebounds, and 4.1 assists.  His field goal percentage (50%) was the fourth best among wing players in the entire NBA.

It’s likely that the bulk of Hayward’s workload will be given to Marcus Smart, which is obviously a sizable downgrade on offense.  Smart shot 37.5% this season, averaging 12.9 points and 4.9 assists.  Unfortunately that lackluster percentage is on par with his career average, but the point and assist totals are both personal highs for the 26 year-old.  He’s developed into a semi-reliable three-point shooter at just under 35%, putting him in the category of guys like LeBron James, Al Horford, and Eric Bledsoe when it comes to shooting from deep. 

Smart has shown consistent growth as a ball-handler and facilitator, and he’ll have to rely heavily on those abilities in order to fill the shoes of someone like Hayward.  If he can keep his shot selection in check and understand that the postseason is not the time to shoot yourself out of a slump, he can be an extremely valuable asset to the Celtics’ starting lineup. 

Semi Ojeleye, Robert Williams, Brad Wanamaker, Grant Williams, and Romeo Langford are among the other Celtics who will see a significant increase in minutes.  As is always the case when a key player goes down, replacing Gordon Hayward will be a group effort.  

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