Brad Rock: Jazz: Sign Gordon Hayward to avoid L.A.-envy

By Brad Rock, Deseret News

Published: Thu, April 17, 2014, 4:45 p.m. MDT

 Utah Jazz guard Gordon Hayward speaks with the media as Jazz players clean out their lockers for the season in Salt Lake City Thursday, April 17, 2014.

Utah Jazz guard Gordon Hayward speaks with the media as Jazz players clean out their lockers for the season in Salt Lake City Thursday, April 17, 2014.

(Hugh Carey, Deseret News)

SALT LAKE CITY — Gordon Hayward and the Utah Jazz got down to the business of business on Thursday, despite having few specific answers.

An agreement was never reached when the sides discussed a contract extension, last year. So Hayward entered the season knowing on July 1 he will be a restricted free agent.

Thus the team can keep its multi-faceted wing player, if it wishes. In some ways, the season didn’t raise his value. It only threw the Jazz into free-agent angst.

How much do they spend on a talented but not dominant player?

“[One] challenge we had is that Gordon’s very comfortable, educated, smart, talented — and will he push through his comfort level to move past good to become very significant in this league?” said general manager Dennis Lindsey. “I think there’s a level that if you really want to reflect and [have him] get uncomfortable with himself, I think he can hit another level.”

Something similar happened 10 years ago, when Russia-born Andrei Kirilenko’s contract year arrived. A few years later it looked as though something had been lost in translation. His role had changed so many times, neither he nor the Jazz seemed sure of it. The high salary impeded the team’s efforts to sign others.

Fast-forward a decade and you have another multi-position stat machine on the podium. Just like Kirilenko, Hayward is neither a team leader nor a pure scorer, merely a guy with many valuable skills.

Should the Jazz match any offer?

Up to $10-$12 million, sure.

Beyond that he’d need to be a superstar.

The Jazz keep waiting, but after four years that seems unlikely.

For all the things Hayward can be for the Jazz, what he could be for someone else is even more intriguing. Philadelphia, Dallas, Los Angeles and Phoenix are among teams with cap space to overpay Hayward. Picture him playing for a revamped Laker team. Or reminding the Jazz that Phoenix not only has its former player and assistant coach, but won 23 more games this year.

Among the goals he had last year was to increase his leadership. Although Hayward does so by example, he has made little headway as a vocal leader.

“I think I definitely made steps (in leadership),” Hayward said at locker cleanout Thursday. “I still have a ways to go, but definitely steps were made.”

Although his field goal percentage was the lowest of his career, his rebounds, assists and steals were up. The only other players in the league to average 15-plus points and 5-plus rebounds and assists were LeBron James, Michael Carter-Williams, Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook.

Pete Maravich is the only other Jazz player ever to do so.

“I had a solid year. I didn’t shoot the ball very well, but we’ll see what the Jazz think, what other teams think when my agent and I start talking,” Hayward.

Nothing summarized his season more than late in Wednesday’s win over Minnesota. A potentially winning shot thudded off the glass without touching the rim. But Hayward followed with two impressive blocks.

There he was again, tantalizingly close to being great.

Indiana All-Star Paul George, who was selected right behind Hayward in 2010, signed a deal last fall worth up to $18 million annually. Stan Van Gundy, the former NBA coach, told 1280 The Zone last winter, “the way the game is going, a perimeter guy who is not a good shooter, not a real good shooter, I think that limits his value in today’s game."

He put Hayward’s value at $6.5 to $7 million, twice this year's salary.

But value is relative. To a team needing only one more piece, he’s worth far more.

Asked how close he and the Jazz were last fall when negotiations failed, Hayward said, “I don’t know numbers exactly, we didn’t really talk. I didn’t really think about it too much. We talked briefly, but we’ll talk about it again shortly.”

In other words, none of your business.

The problem with free agents is they’re much like New York real estate: if you don’t pay up, somebody will. Utah doled out over $12 million annually for Derrick Favors.

Anything beyond that would be risking another Kirilenko situation.

“It’s safe to say Gordon will get very significant salary, but we stand by our statement that we hope he’s a member of the Utah Jazz for the length of his career,” Lindsey said.

The Jazz have the money and it’s almost certain they’ll use it.

Half because they need him and half because someone else needs him even more.

Email: rock@desnews.com; Twitter: @therockmonster; Blog: Rockmonster Unplugged

Related Stories

9 reasons to watch the NBA Playoffs

Mitch Kunzler
April 18, 2014
1. VeraLouise
Sandy, UT,
April 17, 2014

I don't know about this at all. If you heard his exit interview on the radio, when asked if he wanted to come back, his hesitation and first several words certainly didn't sound like it. I'd like to see him come back (for a fair price--whatever that is), but not if he really doesn't want to. The exit interviews are always interesting and a bit perplexing. They remind me of that year when John Stockton quietly announced he was retiring and I cried in my office upon hearing it. Yah, I'm a bit of a neurotic fan, but I love it. It drove my husband crazy today as I have been glued to the radio in every room so I don't miss out on anything.

2. rvalens2
Burley, ID,
April 18, 2014

It's unlikely Hayward will be with the Utah Jazz next season, someone will be willing to overpay him. The Jazz should not keep him if it means a max contract.

I'd rather see the Jazz save that money for someone who I think will one day soon become an All-Star . . . Alec Burks. The kid made a huge improvement from last year. I also believe that Jeremy Evans and Rudy Gobert have shown they have the potential to become big time contributors to the Jazz next season.

3. Hochmut
West Jordan, UT,
April 18, 2014

Why not bring back Stockton and Malone. Afterall, all I ever hear about from the talk shows is Stockton and Malone and how great the team was then. Let's give it a rest Jazz Nation. Stockton and Malone never won an NBA crown--do something different.

4. Tators
Hyrum, UT,
April 18, 2014

Team general managers need to start using more common sense when it comes to how they use their available money when signing players. There is an entire list of potentially good players that were given way overpaid contracts, then never panned out. AK47 is an example. But there are far worse examples.

I hope the Jazz are reasonable with their free agent signings... not too frugal and not too extravagant. That is key in having long term success. Overpaying a couple of good free agents gives a team some short term success, but will hurt the team long term when they have to keep paying big bucks after their play tapers off and their market value drops. That's exactly what happened with Kerilinko. They Jazz were stuck with paying him twice his market value during the 2nd half of his contract.

If nothing else, the free-agent signings this summer will be very interesting... with the Jazz having especially deep pockets this year. And the rookie draft of which the Jazz have a couple of first round picks (including a lottery pick), is supposed to be the best in a decade. Very interesting indeed.

5. Sneaky Jimmy
Bay Area, CA,
April 18, 2014

I don't see Hayward as that superstar player. Some team like Boston will overpay him because he would sell well in Boston. I think the jazz should let him walk if he gets a crazy offer. He just isn't a player that can win a game for you in the last 2 minutes.