Gordon Hayward will hit the open market, making him the most appealing free agent available.
We know players like Kevin Durant and Steph Curry won’t go anywhere. So the Utah Jazz forward represents the best bet available for a team looking to sign a star player. However, not all 30 teams will have a chance to land him. Between salary cap constraints and better options at the position, only a few teams in the league can sign the coveted free agent. But in which franchise will he fit best?
Before analyzing the options, we have to understand the kind of player we are talking about. Hayward is coming off a career-year where he averaged 21.9 points per game. He also added 5.4 rebounds and 3.5 assists, and made the All-Star Team for the first team ever. And he’s 27 years old, so he’s still in his prime. The team that gets him for about four or five years will get the best version of him.
The Jazz represent the best option for Hayward right now. Aside from being the team where he’s played his entire career, Utah can give him the bigger salary. And if Hayward values familiarity and loyalty, then there is no question he will re-sign with the franchise. He looks comfortable there, he is the star player, and the fans love him.
As if that wasn’t enough, hes’s already on a winning team. After all. the Jazz reached the Western Conference Semifinals last season. Utah might never win against the Golden State Warriors or the San Antonio Spurs, but there is no question they are on the right track.
This is where things get interesting. Hayward played for Brad Stevens at Butler, and he’s the coach of the Boston Celtics now. And Boston is a little bit ahead of the title curve in comparison to the Jazz. They claimed the top seed in the Eastern Conference last season, and even though they lost in the Eastern Conference Finals against the Cleveland Cavaliers, they have built a franchise ready to contend for the foreseeable future.
The main question is not whether Heyward would fit in Boston’s offense, because he would. It is whether the Celtics are ready to give away some quality assets in order to make enough cap space to land the star free agent. At the very least, they would have to part ways with Jae Crowder and Kelly Olynyk, while Marcus Smart or Avery Bradley would likely be traded. Those are at least three rotation players just to upgrade the SF role. Will Boston pull the trigger?
The Miami Heat are an interesting franchise, to say the least. They were expected to rebuild this year, but somehow they stayed in playoff contention until the last day of the regular season. They might not have Chris Bosh anymore, but they still have some interesting players. Goran Dragic, Hassan Whiteside, and free-agent Dion Waiters would make for an interesting core. Hayward would transform them into a playoff team right away.
There’s a report that said Hayward will consider the Heat in the offseason. But does he really fit there? And if he wants to battle in the playoffs each year, the Heat might not be their best option.
Any other suitors?
They can be considered a darkhorse, but let’s not sleep on the Minnesota Timberwolves. They have a young, exciting core led by Andrew Wiggins and Karl-Anthony Towns. And even though they didn’t reach the playoffs last season, they seem to be one star player away from contention. Hayward could be that difference maker, and there is no doubt he would fit nicely in Tom Thibodeau’s defensive-minded scheme. Like I said, they are a darkhorse but we shouldn’t sleep on them.
The ball is on Hayward’s court now. But one thing is certain: he will get paid no matter which team he chooses to sign with.