Utah Jazz fans must be sick of this recurring nightmare. On Saturday morning, it was announced that Gordon Hayward suffered a broken finger on his left hand. Hayward is expected to miss at least six weeks.
Hayward is arguably the Jazz’s best player, leading the ball club in points, assists, minutes and games played during the 2015/16 season. After suffering through key injuries to Dante Exum, Rudy Gobert, Alec Burks and Derrick Favors last year, this is an unfortunate break for a Utah franchise expecting a playoff appearance in 2017.
Assuming the six week layout turns out to be accurate, Hayward will miss 12 regular season games, including contests against predicted Western Conference contenders San Antonio (twice), Los Angeles Clippers and Portland Trailblazers.
So where will Jazz head coach Quin Snyder turn to fill the void? Can Joe Ingles help cover the loss of Hayward?
Ingles has spent the majority of his Jazz career as an injury substitute for more fancied teammates. The same will be true to start this season. Ingles will likely start the campaign in Snyder’s rotation, which means more of these wonderfull old man moves.
How the exact rotation shakes out is anybody’s guess, but there should be guaranteed minutes for the 29-year-old Australian. Ingles could return to the starting line-up, but my early guess is that new recruit Joe Johnson will start the season in Hayward’s place, with Ingles serving as his primary backup.
The loss of Hayward could also see Exum thrust into the starting line-up if Utah decides Rodney Hood is capable of heavy minutes at small forward.
Hayward missing 12 regular season games shouldn’t be a death knell for the Jazz season, and it won’t impact the upcoming free agency of Hayward. But they could prove vital for Ingles.
I raised last month the importance of Ingles starting the season well. Hopefully, another unlucky moment for the Jazz franchise will prove beneficial for Joe Inlges.