I'm going to post my current thoughts by re-using a bit I posted in another thread.
The comment I was responding to was using the time since Hayward's original injury in Oct, 2017, as the timeline for comparison to Paul George's recovery.
That timeline is incorrect. A major difference between George's recovery and Hayward's is that Hayward had follow-up surgery in May of 2018 -- just 12 months ago.
It's also important to note USG. George initially came back for a few games in the Spring 2015 of the season following his injury and didn't play all that great, continued rehabbing and training during the Summer and then finally hit the ground running the following Fall 2015 as the top scoring options on his team, getting a whopping 30% USG% and 18 FGA per game. Yes he was efficient, with a solid 55.7% TS% scoring efficiency. But he isn't scoring 23.1 points per game without taking a lot of shots.
Over the last couple of months, most of Hayward's efficiency stats were finally back to his pre-injury levels. He posted the following TS% efficiency rates down the stretch:
Feb: 64.4% TS (17.7% USG, 80 FGA)
Mar: 62.3% TS (20.1% USG, 99 FGA)
Apr: 76.2% TS (18.4% USG, 40 FGA)
Playoffs (IND): 61.5% TS (17.3% USG, 39 FGA)
Playoffs (MIL): 48.4% TS (14.1% USG, 35 FGA)
So as you can see, up until these last few games, which represents a pretty tiny sample, his scoring efficiency has been elite for the last 3 months ... but we just haven't used him very much.
Gordon is not going to post 25 points per game taking that few of shots per game.
And on this team as it is constructed, with usage dominated by Kyrie (who gets over 30% USG) and several other second level scoring options, there has just been no means for Gordon to post up big counting stats.
So that's why his box scores don't look like healthy Paul George box scores.
That last sample is literally an average of just 7 FGA per game. Gordon was more and more 'frozen out' of the offense in that game as his touch rate (touches of the ball) dropped precipitously lower than what he'd averaged in the prior months. Over the last 10 games of the regular season, when he was clearly playing his best ball, he averaged ~50 touches of the ball per game. In these last 4 games of the playoffs, that had dropped to under 38 touches per game. In the 2nd-to-last game, the one that put the stake through our season, he touched the ball just 27 times.
Think about that. How on earth can a player contribute if he just isn't getting the ball?
People scream, "Why doesn't he shoot more?"
In that 27 touch game he took 5 FGA. That's means that he took a shot roughly every 5th touch of the ball. That's consistent with how he played overall in the playoffs: One True Scoring Attempt per 4.9 touches. That's not quite as aggressive as we'd like him to be. During the last 10 games of the regular season, when he was playing his best ball as a Celtic, that was up to on TSA every 4.1 touches.
In his last season at UTAH, he touched the ball 4563 times. He had 1345 True Scoring Attempts that season which means he was more aggressive, attempting to score once every 3.4 touches. He of course got a ton more touches at 62.5 per game.
But clearly, we want him, at his efficiency to be aggressively trying to score more frequently than once every 4 touches.
My overall point is that, all evidence is that his ability to score efficiently seems to be back. The tiny sample of the last few games doesn't change that. But he's not getting anywhere near enough utilization to post the kind of counting stat numbers to make a lot of fans happy. And that is caused by a combination of (a) not enough touches of the ball (which is on the team) and (c) not quite enough aggression (which is still on him).
I think there is no reason to think that he can't make a complete return to his former mojo by next Fall. All it really should take is a commitment by the team to use him and for Brad to simply tell him to be more aggressive. There is no reason, assuming his health doesn't go backwards, that he can't become a mid-20s, high-efficiency scorer again.
BUT ... the Celtics as a team need to decide what they want to be on offense. If the offense is still oriented around Kyrie Irving, getting ~32% USG, dominating touches and shots, and we also add an Anthony Davis who will command heavy USG and we also want to develop whichever Jay we retain to become a confident volume scorer ... then I'm dubious that Gordon will ever get the committed utilization needed to make fans happy with his contract.
To sum up: I feel pretty confident that Hayward should be able to return to his former abilities, if he isn't there already then certainly by next Fall. However I just don't know if he will ever get high enough utilization to realize his former numbers on a team with the offense dominated by Kyrie and expected to share a ton of shots by so many others -- especially if we add Davis.
So whether Hayward will ever 'pay off' in on-court value is going to depend pretty heavily on what the roster ends up looking like after this summer. And that's a wide-open question at the moment.