By Ron Leyba
The Utah Jazz did not sign an extension to Gordon Hayward’s contract this season and the 24 – year old forward will be a restricted free agent during the summer. What this means is that the Jazz will have the opportunity to match any offer Hayward receives but if he becomes too expensive, the Jazz are expected to let him walk.
There are several teams around the league interested in acquiring a versatile young player like Hayward. Some of those suitors might offer big bucks to steal him from Utah. Hayward had a breakaway season in 2013 – 2014. He finished with 16.2 points per contest to go along with 5.1 rebounds, 5.2 assists and 41.3 percent shooting from the field. Thanks to the young of his age and the drastic improvement in his performance during the last season, Hayward’s value has now risen significantly.
The Cleveland Cavaliers are reportedly interested in acquiring the versatile forward. If the Cavs select Joel Embiid at the top of the upcoming draft and at the same time choose to pass on the swingmen Jabari Parker and Joel Embiid, they will need to add a capable wing player. Luol Deng is unlikely to return to Cleveland and Gordon Hayward seems to be a great fit alongside Kyrie Irving.
The Detroit Pistons are another potential destination. Greg Monroe is also a restricted free agent and the two teams could swap their players. In fact, this seems like a great scenario for either side. With Hayward onboard the Pistons would be able to switch Josh Smith to his natural position, the power forward and at the same time Hayward would provide another scoring option in the perimeter. Utah would be more than happy to add an emerging big man like Greg Monroe even if that means giving up Hayward.
The Charlotte Hornets are also looking to add some talent in their perimeter. Michael Jordan promised to do whatever he can in order to help his team become successful and the Hornets will have the financial flexibility to offer a tempting contract to Hayward this summer. It’s widely expected that if Hayward receives a contract with an annual salary higher than $10 million, the Utah Jazz will not match it. Hayward will instantly upgrade the Hornets’ firepower and he will emerge as the third wheel on offense for Charlotte, alongside Al Jefferson and Kemba Walker.
The Boston Celtics are one of the teams interested in landing Hayward, who has strong ties with the head coach of the team, Brad Stevens. Boston does have the assets to form a tempting deal and bring Hayward onboard. However, the C’s also eyeing Kevin Love and they are expected to make a strong push for him before exploring any other trade options, especially ones that might require some of their assets. However, Gordon Hayward could blend well with Rajon Rondo and help the Celtics return to a winning course. Of course, Boston would still need some more additions to re-enter championship contention.