After a solid junior campaign, playing alongside the likes of Jerel McNeal
, Dominic James
, and Wesley Matthews
, Lazar Hayward
emerged from their collective shadow as Marquettes top option this season. Playing out of position (at the 4 or even sometimes the 5) in the Golden Eagles extremely undersized lineup, Hayward showed the competitiveness and toughness that coaches love, but remains notably limited in certain areas.
Possessing solid size and strength for a small forward the position hell need to play on the NBA levelHayward is a physical wing who had success in the NCAA thanks his aggressiveness and role-player skills, not his athleticism. Not terribly quick, looking a little stiff in the open floor for a wing, and not displaying much in the way of explosive leaping ability, Hayward is a limited athlete by NBA standards a reality that will constantly force him to prove himself against his more athletic peers.
Though his athletic profile unquestionably limits his upside from an NBA perspective, it is hard not to like the way Hayward approaches the game on both ends. Hard-nosed, confident, and unwavering, Hayward has been a consummate team player at Marquette from the moment he stepped on campus. Though he received more touches this season, and subsequently wasnt as efficient as hes been in the past, the composition of Haywards offensive game has been consistent for most of his career.
Nearly half of Haywards offensive is composed of jump shots according to Synergy Sports Technology, and while he didnt shoot the outstanding 45% from three that he did as a sophomore, Hayward remains a capable catch and shoot threat. Though he short arms his release on occasion, the senior does a nice job squaring up his body and knocking down his open looks. With roughly a third of his shots coming from behind the arc in each of his seasons at Marquette, Haywards ability to stretch the floor has always benefitted the guards playing around him.
While his 36.5% shooting in catch and shoot situations is a 4% drop from last season, much of that has to do with the quality of those shots rather than Haywards shooting itself. Last season, nearly 71% of such shots were categorized as unguarded, while only 38% have been categorized similarly this season. Clearly, Haywards efficiency as a shooter has a lot to do with his teammates, as hes seldom creating his own shots. Only taking roughly 1 pull-up jump shot each game and knocking down only 22.9%, Hayward isnt much of a midrange threat due to his inability to create space off the dribble and tendency to float through his release instead of jumping straight up and down off the dribble. Right now he projects as almost strictly a spot-up threat.
Aside from his merits as a jump shooter, Hayward also proves to more than capable of scoring in the post and around the basket. Though he lacks great leaping ability, the New York native does an excellent job using his body to attack the baseline off the dribble in face-up situations and to protect the ball when he elevates to score.
Haywards spot up shooting, face up game, and ability to play tough around the basket all speak to his ability to flourish as a role-player. Doing all of the little things, rebounding the ball at a high rate, and playing a fundamental brand of defense, Hayward thrives as a complementary option. Though he had a productive season as Marquettes leading scorer, his reliance on his teammates for efficiency, lack of dynamic ball-handling and shot creating ability, and his role in half court sets are emblematic of his ideal fit at the next level.
Haywards dedication and ability on the defensive end are unquestionable, but his potential from an NBA perspective remains problematic. Using his body just as well defensively as he does offensively, Hayward does a very good job getting a hand in the face of shooters when closing out, fighting for position against much bigger players on the block, and holding his ground when his man tries to take him off the dribble.
Extremely sound fundamentally, obviously well-coached, and showing a knack for being in the right place at the right time, the biggest concern about Haywards defensive potential is his lack of lateral quickness. Spending most of his time defending fours and fives last season, Haywards ability to deny dribble penetration will be one of the key aspects of his game that teams judge in workouts.
With the Portsmouth Invitational only a few weeks away, Lazar Hayward
is the type of player that would surely benefit from a good showing, especially if he can showcase his defensive ability against a collection of better athletes on the wing. A known commodity at this juncture, the holes in Haywards game may not guarantee him a spot on draft night, but he will at the very least have his suitors in the form of training camp invites and overseas offers.