4 Thunder players who need monster second halves to save their job

Jaylin Williams and Josh Giddey, Oklahoma City Thunder
Jaylin Williams and Josh Giddey, Oklahoma City Thunder / Joshua Gateley/GettyImages
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No. 2: Gordon Hayward

This is a simple one. The Oklahoma City Thunder just acquired Gordon Hayward, a former All-Star whose career path was redirected due to a gruesome broken leg. To Hayward's credit he has brought himself back and carved out a long career, but he is not the player that he once was.

The Thunder aren't banking on him to be that, however. They just want him to come in and fill a rotation role as a playmaker and shooter. On an expiring contract, Hayward's most likely use to the Thunder moving forward is as matching salary in a sign-and-trade.

That calculus changes, however, if Hayward has an incredible ending to the season and shows out in the playoffs. If he stays healthy and proves to be a seamless fit with the rest of the Thunder's core, suddenly he goes from a veteran rental to the final piece in the starting lineup, replacing Josh Giddey and earning himself a new contract.

At worse, a strong showing down the stretch earns him his pick of his next job. Even if the Thunder have other options and don't want to commit significant salary to him, a monster second half opens up more doors in free agency to join a team as an expected starter on a commensurate contract. Whether it's in OKC or elsewhere, how he finishes will decide what his next chapter looks like.