Where is Gordon Hayward going to end up? The Jazz All-Star is one of the big names in this year’s free agency period and has a number of suitors lining up for his services. We run the rule over these potential suitors to see just where he will end up.
The first meeting Hayward took in the free agency period was in South Beach. He has been vaguely linked to the Miami Heat for quite some time now and gave Pat Riley what some believe was just a courtesy meeting. But when Pat Riley is involved, anything is possible and a source close to Hayward said he was very impressed with what the Heat presented.
And why wouldn’t he be impressed? The Heat have a solid core already with the likes of Goran Dragic, Hassan Whiteside & Justise Winslow that Hayward would complement nicely. Adding Hayward would put the Heat comfortably in the playoff picture with an opportunity to record a 50-win season next year. They wouldn’t challenge for a Finals spot but they would be have something to build around in the future with Riley pulling more strings in FA. They also have a championship winning coach in Eric Spoelstra and an aggressive front office that demand success. Yes we know that most coaches could have won titles with the Heat when they had LeBron, Wade & Co. but he still had to get the job done. A major factor in the decision to move to South Beach would be the fact that Hayward wouldn’t need to pay any state income tax. Added to this is the lifestyle change that Miami would represent compared to that of Utah and even Boston.
Miami would be able to offer Hayward a max contract with no state income tax, a championship winning culture on a roster that has plenty of potential with Pat Riley leading the charge in the front office + a welcome lifestyle change for his family.
The Boston Celtics seem to be the front-runner for Hayward’s services with the All-Star wing. He seems to be a perfect fit in the Celtics system, a added scoring threat on a defensively minded team. Boston see him as a player who can form a formidable 1-2 punch with Isaiah Thomas on offense. By joining the Celtics, Hayward would reunite with college coach, Brad Stevens, who Hayward has spoken very highly about in the past.
“He knows how to make people successful,” Hayward said of Stevens in early 2016. “He puts guys in the right positions. He’s very smart with reading defenses and knowing how teams are going to play and what they’re going to do, switches, whatever. They beat us on a last-second shot last year, on their play. He’s just a really smart coach and he always brings the best out of his players. Like I said, I’m proud of what he’s been able to do.”
Boston would be able to offer Hayward a max contract, the opportunity to reunite with his loved college coach and a chance to compete for a spot in the NBA Finals in a weaker Eastern Conference.
Loyalty still reigns?
In a league that is moving further away from loyalty, from both players and front offices is it possible that Gordon Hayward stays in Utah? Absolutely. And there’s plenty of reasons why he would want to.
The Utah Jazz are a team on the rise. A strong, young core with a quality coach in Quin Snyder took to the NBA playoffs this year and took down the more fancied L.A. Clippers. This team has the makings of a successful roster and if Gordon Hayward could stay around this may come sooner rather than later. His relationship with Coach Snyder is reportedly very strong as are his ties with teammates. Joe Ingles recently re-signed with the Jazz and is also Hayward’s closest friend on the roster. Leaving the Jazz would mean starting again in terms of these relationships and trying to fit into a system when he already fits well in the Utah game plan. A risk they may not be worth taking.
By having Hayward’s bird rights the Jazz can offer more years/money on their contract offer, a system that he is already comfortable in and a young roster that is on the rise to success.
In today’s NBA it has become unlikely that a player fields offers from other teams to then turn around and return to the team they were originally with. So this means that the Utah Jazz may have to say good-bye to part of their bright future. Boston seem the obvious option here given the position of their roster and Hayward’s strong ties to coach Brad Stevens. However I’m not ruling out the Heat just yet, so don’t be surprised if he takes his talents to South Beach. Lifestyle, Pat Riley, championship culture and a feature scoring role awaits in Miami. I’m predicting he signs with the Heat.