Utah Jazz forward Gordon Hayward decided to pass on the team’s qualifying offer last year, throwing his 6-foot-8-inch body into the fire that is NBA free agency. As a restricted free agent, the 24-year-old Hayward stands to make bank--but there is a catch.
Does a team like Cleveland or Boston or even Phoenix throw enough millions of dollars at Hayward’s agent’s feet to make the Jazz blanch and let him go?
Cleveland hasn’t reportedly offered anything to Hayward--but according to several media sources the two parties are in talks as of Thursday, July 3--even if Hayward, an Indiana native, is not a huge fan of either Cleveland or Ohio.
It doesn’t really matter though. What matters is the color of the money--and if Cleveland or any other team offers to hand Hayward a pile of cash, he would be stupid not to take it and run. It’s happened before.
All Jazz fans need to do is remember the insane amounts of dinero that Paul Millsap or Wesley Matthews were offered to know that the best laid plans can sometimes go bad. In fact, they can go very bad.
After Millsap left the Jazz and Utah had passed on matching his max offer from Atlanta he became an All-Star and Matthews has enjoyed quite the run with the Portland Trail Blazers since Utah opted not to match his deal too.
But the Jazz have insisted on the record--which is quite weird for this super-secret organization to be honest--that they will match any and all offers for Hayward, even if another team offers Hayward a max deal. Have the Jazz learned from past mistakes to realize that Hayward may just be one season from breaking out and becoming an All-Star?
Which brings us to the teams who are reportedly interested in the former Butler star. Apparently, his 16-point, 5-rebound, 5-assist season has made him a second-tier free agent--just below the likes of LeBron, Carmelo and Pau.
While Hayward isn’t yet known by one name like the afore-mentioned stars--that’s LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony and Pau Gasol to those not in the know---he still is known enough for teams to offer him tens of millions of dollars in the next few weeks.
While it is unlikely that any NBA team will actually offer Hayward until the first tier of FA’s makes their decisions, it should happen sooner rather than later. Here are the five teams in contention for Hayward.
The Cavs and owner Dan Gilbert must have more money than Donald Trump--because the Cavs ownership group certainly isn’t being shy about going after certain free agents. After they drafted Kansas high-flier Andrew Wiggins No. 1--and re-signed budding superstar, point guard Kyrie Irving--they haven’t wasted a second chasing top free agents like Hayward. If Cleveland presents Hayward with a four-year, $60 million max offer, will the Jazz match it? What if the Cavs throw $80 million to $100 million into the deal?
Los Angeles Lakers
The Lake Show is in play because the team in LA other than the Clippers finally had a horrible season after Kobe Bryant took his ball and flew his helicopter home to the OC (Orange County). The Lakers also have more money to spend on free agents than any other NBA team--but if Carmelo Anthony decides he isn’t playing in LA, their chase after Hayward kicks this rumor into overdrive.
This scenario has been in play since Hayward decided not to take the Jazz’ initial qualifying offer and run. Former Jazz assistant and current Suns head coach Jeff Hornacek is one reason Hayward might want to play in the Valley of the Sun; 48 wins last season is a good second reason, and so is the fact that Hayward reportedly loves the city. The problem is that the Suns don’t have as much cap room as the Lakers--so if they offered Hayward upwards of $60 million it might be all they can do this off-season. Besides, they’re waiting to see what LeBron will do.
You can probably forget about a tearful reunion with Hayward and his old college coach, Brad Stevens. Boston just reportedly re-signed guard Avery Bradley to a 3-year, $32 million deal. Although everyone and their dog’s dog thought Hayward was going to Beantown--it appears that another player has beaten his management team to the punch. That is, unless Boston can get him in a sign-and-trade deal--always a possibility for a wheeler and dealer like Jazz GM Dennis Lindsey.
That’s right, because Hayward is actually a restricted free agent, that also means the team on which Hayward is currently a member of also has a say in where he goes. If any of the four afore-mentioned teams decide to give Hayward a max offer worth between $60 million and $80 million and Utah doesn’t feel like matching it, then let the games begin. Hayward has to ask himself if he feels like being the third wheel behind guard Trey Burke and draft pick Dante Exum--because that’s where he’ll likely end up. Whereas, if Hayward were to go to Phoenix, he would most certainly get more touches and do what Suns coach Jeff Hornacek predicts--which is become an All-Star. Do the Jazz really feel Hayward could be an All-Star? We’re all about to find out.