According to Yahoo! Sports and the Charlotte Observer, Gordon Hayward will receive a max offer sheet from the Charlotte Hornets totaling $63 million over four years. Let me try to address a few questions on this issue.
WHAT CAN THE JAZZ DO TO NOW THAT HAYWARD HAS AN OFFER SHEET?
The Jazz have three choices:
1) They can say, “No thank you; this is too much money for Hayward and we’re going to pass.” This allows Hayward to leave and all the Jazz get is cap space.
2) They can try to negotiate a sign-and-trade deal where the Jazz would actually sign Hayward and then trade him to Charlotte for pieces the Hornets give the Jazz. However, the Hornets have very little the Jazz would be interested in as their roster is currently constructed.
3) The Jazz can match the contract offer and assume the contract as their own.
WHEN DOES ALL THIS TAKE PLACE?
The offer sheet, while reported today, can’t be official until July 10. Once the Jazz receive the offer, they have 72 hours to match the deal.
WHAT WILL THE JAZZ DO?
The Jazz will match the contract and retain Hayward under this four-year $63 million contract.
WHY WOULD THE JAZZ MATCH THIS CONTRACT WHEN IT OVERPAYS HAYWARD?
First, the Jazz have drafted and developed Hayward. He is their player and the Jazz cannot afford to let him walk without receiving anything in exchange.
Also, Hayward is really good. We can debate if he is a “max” player, but he is really good. He is likely to average around 16 points, five rebounds and five assists for the rest of his career. He is an elite passer for a wing. He makes his teammates better.
Yes, the contract is paying Hayward more than he has achieved at this point in his career, but that is the game of free agency and it only takes one team to bust open the bank for a player, so the Jazz must deal with those consequences.
Moreover, the Jazz are in a salary situation where they should still have between $20–$26 million of cap space next year, and another $10 million before the luxury tax.
If the Jazz let Hayward walk, what else would they do with that money? The Jazz wouldn’t be able to get a comparable player in the marketplace. Signing a veteran on a rebuilding team in Salt Lake City is impossible, and trying to find another player of Hayward’s ability at 24 years old is is also highly unlikely.
The Jazz value Gordon Hayward as a player. He is a special talent. Not many players in this league can average 16-5-5 like Hayward can, and if you look at the great teams, nearly all of them have a playmaking wing.
This is minor, but the increases on the contract are only for 4.5% each season and the cap is expected to grow each year at higher than that rate, so Hayward contract will take up less of the cap each year of his contract.
Let’s make sure we remember that Hayward is our best player. You can’t lose your best player.
BUT GORDON DIDN’T HAVE A GREAT YEAR LAST YEAR AND SHOT JUST 41%. HOW CAN HE GET A MAX CONTRACT?
The market is over-saturated with money and lacks talent. When the market opened, I counted 24 slots of $12 million or more available for players and only 12 players who were near-worthy of a $12 million contract.
It also tells you how the rest of the league views a player that can produce the numbers I just mentioned. The league lacks talented wing players, so the combination of playing a position that is in demand and a market that is overloaded with money created the ideal situation for Gordon Hayward.
HOW GOOD OF A PLAYER IS GORDON HAYWARD?
As I mentioned before, not a lot of players, average 16-5-5 in this league. Playmaking wings are both really important and scarce.
Hayward’s best talent is what he does for his teammates.
When Hayward was on the floor, Favors shot 54%. When Hayward was off the floor, Favors shot 46%. The same goes for almost everyone on the Jazz last year. Trey Burke’s EFG% was 46.5% with Hayward on and 39.8% with him off. The same applies to Richard Jefferson (55.6% vs. 51%), Alec Burks (50.5% vs. 47%) and Enes Kanter (50.5% vs. 46%).
DOES GORDON WANT TO PLAY IN UTAH?
Absolutely. Nothing that has taken place in this process means Gordon doesn’t want to play in Utah. Hayward’s agent and family have done exactly what the process dictated they should do. Last year, the Jazz and Hayward were in negotiations and couldn’t come to an agreement. One of the main reasons, they couldn’t come to an agreement was Hayward’s agent understood what the marketplace would be this offseason for Gordon. Therefore, they went into restricted free agency and got a max deal. Now the Jazz are obligated to do what they said they would do the whole time: match the offer. The Jazz have been unbending in their belief in Gordon as a player and how important he is to the franchise. When the Jazz match the contract, they will show action behind their words in this process.
Hayward took the risk of playing a year without a long-term contract and it paid off for him. The Jazz, knowing the market, decided to make Hayward get the offer and he was able to do that. That’s how the rules dictate the game. Both sides played it, and at the end they are still together on the same team.
CAN THE JAZZ STILL SIGN ALEC BURKS AND ENES KANTER?
Nothing is as easy as a “yes” or “no” … but basically, yes. Hayward’s first year of his contract is for $14.75 million. The Jazz will still have $26 million in cap room and another $10 million or more until they hit the luxury tax, so they should be able to sign both Alec and Enes in the offseason if they desire.
WILL THIS CONTRACT EVER GET THE JAZZ IN MONEY PROBLEMS?
The first time it could be an issue is when Trey Burke comes up for his extension during the 2017-18 season. A lot can take place between now and then, so basically I would say no.
This is hard to project, but while Hayward is overpaid at $15 and $16 million a year in the first two years of the deal, by the time the new TV contract kicks in, his final two years may turn out to be the equivalent of $12 million deals.
DOESN’T SIGNING A PLAYER FOR MORE THAN HE IS WORTH HURT THE JAZZ?
It’s hard to say this is more than he’s worth when the market dictates his value. However, I understand the concept of the question. In a lot of circumstances the answer is yes. However, in this case probably not. The Jazz aren’t expected to win many more games next year from what they did last year. The rebuild is still in its infant stages and is going to take some time before the big steps are taken. Therefore, over the next two years, “overpaying” Hayward while Exum, Kanter, Burke, Burks and the crew continue to develop their games under Quin Snyder is unlikely to hurt the franchise.
DOES THIS IMPACT UTAH’S ABILITY TO SIGN EXTENSIONS FOR ALEC BURKS AND ENES KANTER?
This is where I think the impact will be felt. If you were Alec Burks and Enes Kanter and just saw Gordon Hayward get a max contract after his season last year, would you sign an extension or would you want to go to the open market? Both of these players are going to assume they’ll be met with the same love as Gordon Hayward in the marketplace, and this will make it very difficult for the Jazz to be able to sign either of them to extensions this offseason.
WHEN WILL THE JAZZ MATCH THE CONTRACT?
The Jazz will wait the entire 72 hours before matching the contract for two reasons. First, the Jazz aren’t going to do the Hornets any favors by releasing their obligation to this money by matching it early. Secondly, the Jazz will have an extra $6 million they can spend in those 72 hours. Gordon Hayward’s current cap hold is about $8 million. Once the Jazz match, he will take up $14.7 million off the cap. Therefore, during those 72 hours, the Jazz could sign a player with that $6 million. After signing, Hayward the Jazz will still have about $8 million (and as much as $11 million) in cap space.
HAS CHARLOTTE DONE ANYTHING TO MAKE THE CONTRACT UNAPPEALING TO THE JAZZ?
It sounds, though not confirmed, that the Hornets have placed a trade kicker and a player option in the deal. The player option would be for the last year, which is the first time the Jazz may have some financial issues with Trey also due for his extension. The trade kicker is complicated, but the easiest way to think of it is that it will make it harder for the Jazz to trade Hayward in the fourth year of his contract (a year he may be able to opt out of anyway).
If Hayward is worth more than the $16.7 million on his final year and wants to opt out of his contract, the Jazz should be pleased he has improved that much as a player.
WILL GORDON HAYWARD BECOME A BETTER PLAYER NOW THAT HE HAS A MAX CONTRACT?
This is going to be the hardest part of this situation. Gordon is not going to change as a player. He may have more success in Quin Snyder’s open-floor, pick-and-roll-heavy, spread offense than in the post-centric offense of Sloan and Corbin. Gordon is an elite open-floor player. If the Jazz can get him more opportunities in space, then he will look better. However, he is not going to change as a player and he is probably not going to be what you perceive a max player to be.
WHY DIDN’T THE JAZZ GET A DEAL DONE BEFORE THIS OFFER SHEET?
A little bit because the Hayward camp wanted to get a max offer and that was their goal. It was important for them that Hayward was regarded as a max player. The Jazz opened up this portion of the negotiations with an effort to get a deal done, but the Hayward camp wanted to see what the market would deliver. Good on them. In the first portion of the negotiation (prior to the start of last season) the Jazz may look back and wish they had offered more and given more to get a deal done rather than paying the max contract now.