You guys have seen him go from a scrawny, shaggy-haired kid who wasn't really playing into an All-Star. I truly believe he loves it here. He loves the organization and the team. And at the end of the day, I believe for him it's about winning. —Joe Ingles
In 2011, the Utah Jazz had a dilemma: What to do with their superstar? Deron Williams was 1 1/2 years away from unrestricted free agency. Do the Jazz ride it out and hope to sign him in the offseason or trade him so they won’t lose him for nothing? The Utah Jazz VP of Basketball Operations Kevin O’Conner decided to trade Williams to the Nets for Derrick Favors, a 2011 first-round pick (Enes Kanter, third overall) and Devin Harris. This started the rebuild.
Fast-forward to 2017. The Jazz were once again faced with the same dilemma: Do they gamble on their star player re-signing or trade him to get something of value in return. This time, the Jazz organization decided to gamble. They felt comfortable enough with Gordon Hayward to make this choice, but eventually, teams have to chance it. NBA teams can’t just draft and develop players, and then trade them the moment they are scared their homegrown star could leave.
Why do the Jazz feel so comfortable in their ability to re-sign Hayward? The first reason is money. In the NBA’s new collective bargaining agreement, teams can offer homegrown talent significantly more money. Also, any player who makes an All-NBA Team can receive a super max deal only from the team that drafted him. So, unlike last year when Kevin Durant didn’t have to sacrifice much money to leave OKC for Golden State, Hayward would have to sacrifice a ton of bags with dollar signs on them to leave Utah.
Since Hayward didn’t make an All-NBA Team, he is not eligible for the super max deal worth five years, $220 million. Now, he most likely will opt out of his contract and be able to sign a new deal worth $180 million over five years. But if Hayward decides to leave for another team, the most he can sign for is a four-year deal worth $133 million.
Hayward says winning is the most important thing to him. This is something he can do in Utah, and this season’s playoff run showed that. If injuries hadn’t bitten the team so badly, the Jazz could have made even more noise. The team has increased its win total from 25 to 51 over the past four years, and if Hayward and most of the team returns, 60 wins aren't out of the question.
To go along with Hayward as a cornerstone piece to this organization, the Jazz also have Rudy Gobert, who is locked up for the next four years. Playing with Gobert, the most dominating defensive big man in the league, doesn’t require Hayward to sacrifice offensive possessions like he would have to in Boston. Utah is Hayward’s team, and he is the man the Jazz turned to when they need a basket.
In an interview with HoopsHype’s Alex Kennedy, Gobert disclosed his pitch to keep Hayward from leaving the Wasatch Front. "I’m just going to ask him, 'Do you want to win a championship?'" Gobert said, per Kennedy. "I feel like with the way we’ve improved the last few years since Quin (Snyder) got here, I don’t think it’d be a great decision to leave now."
Gobert is right, the future looks awfully bright in Utah.
The Jazz hired head coach Quin Snyder, and he has assembled a great coaching staff that develops players and puts together great game plans to help the team win and players succeed. Under Snyder’s direction, Hayward has developed into an All-Star and one of the best two-way players in the league. Hayward and this coaching staff, especially Snyder and assistant Johnnie Bryant, have a very close relationship.
Last offseason, Brian Geltzeiler, founder of Hoopscritic.com, reported that the Jazz were actively trying to trade Hayward. “League source tells Hoopcritic.com, Hayward has expressed his unhappiness in Utah and the Jazz are attempting to accommodate him and that the Boston Celtics are pushing hard for Hayward and the Jazz are not biting right now. The Jazz are putting a steep price tag on Hayward. It remains to be seen if Boston will pay it, but Brad Stevens wants Hayward.”
This report caused Jazz fans plenty of anxiety, but Dennis Lindsey used it as an opportunity to talk and strength their relationship.
“He was able to say a bunch of stuff and we were able to say a bunch of things, and Quin and I got a big, sweaty hug. It was all good,” Lindsey said. “In a weird way, the fact that it was put out there allowed us to say a few things that we probably wouldn’t have said otherwise. There was a huge positive that came out of it. Whoever started (the rumor), I would just thank them. A couple of neat things came out of it.”
Unlike in Boston, Hayward has a chance to be one of the top five players in the history of the franchise and could be the next player to get a statue outside Vivint Arena. Hayward and Gobert have a chance to be the Jazz’s next Stockton and Malone. They are the two key pieces who will anchor the Jazz as a playoff team for years to come.
Over the years, Hayward said he has fallen in love with Utah and its fan base. Hayward commented to the media at locker room clean-out, “It’s been so much fun for me here in Utah and growing up here, starting a family, growing from a basketball standpoint, growing from just a man standpoint,” he said. “I have nothing but love for everybody in Utah.”
Two of his closest teammates Joe Ingles and George Hill have this to say about Hayward and Utah. Ingles stated, "Everyone knows that I'm pretty close to Gordon and we've generally spoken about it. It's not like we wake up every morning and start texting about it, but it comes up every now and then. I think all of the guys who are free this year would much rather stay.
"You guys have seen him go from a scrawny, shaggy-haired kid who wasn't really playing into an All-Star. I truly believe he loves it here. He loves the organization and the team. And at the end of the day, I believe for him it's about winning."
Ingles continued by saying, "You want to be part of a winning team and a winning organization, and obviously, the next step is keeping that team around."
Hill’s comments: "He's like my little brother now ... His heart is here in Utah."
Trey Lyles also gave his thoughts on Hayward during the clean-out. "I think Gordon has a few incentives to stay here. I think we will see him back here next year for sure."
This is coming from people who have spent plenty of time with him and believe he will be back.
According to Hayward, the fans have also been a great support to him.
"That was really cool. I've done a lot of growing up here in Salt Lake City, and for them to stick with me and stick with us through the downs that we've had, it means a lot," he said. "I have nothing but love for this community, and that was pretty special."
This was said after the Jazz lost Game 4 to Golden State when the fans chanted his name as he left the court. It was a great moment that may nudge Hayward into staying.
Recently, fans have put together a campaign to keep him from leaving. The plan was to get enough donations to put a billboard up in SLC that said, “Stayward.” The support has been huge and there are now eight “Stayward” billboards up. After hearing of this, Hayward asked fans to donate this money to the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society in helping support one of his old Butler teammates who lost his dad to cancer. Some of the money raised will be donated to this society.
Hayward went from being booed on draft night to franchise savior, just like John Stockton. Leaving everything Hayward has helped build in Utah will be extremely difficult.
While debating whether to stay or go, he will look at what both sides have to offer. Leaving the Jazz to play in the not-as-competitive Eastern Conference is appealing. One could argue that the top five teams in the Western Conference this season were better than any team in the Eastern Conference not named Cleveland.
Hayward spent the offseason working on his game to raise it to an All-Star level. Out East, he would probably have made the last three All-Star games. Even this season out West, the likes of Chris Paul, Blake Griffin and Damian Lillard didn’t make the All-Star Team. Moving to another conference makes plenty of sense.
Boston is the team, outside of the Jazz, Hayward has been linked to most often. Not only do the Celtics have his college coach, but they have the ability to put together another super team. With the collection of draft picks from the Nets and talent on their roster, they could make a trade to add another star to this team to help attract Hayward.
It was rumored that the Celtics made a run for Chicago's Jimmy Butler this past trade deadline. These teams could once again talk and if making this move guaranteed them Hayward, Boston may do more to get the deal done. A team built around Isaiah Thomas, Al Horford, Butler and Hayward would be a super team out East and pretty hard to turn down. Even without adding another star, the Celtics have plenty to offer. They were the No. 1 seed in the East and won this year's NBA Draft Lottery.
Hayward is a super competitive guy and hates losing. After letting Paul Millsap and Al Jefferson go, the Jazz didn’t put together a team that would win much, and losing was hard for Hayward to take. Plus, the Jazz didn’t have the strongest head coach (Ty Corbin) at the time. Hayward really struggled through this part of his Jazz career. Basically being asked to lose was not something he was a fan of.
Another thing that may have rubbed Hayward the wrong way was Lindsey not offering him a max deal three years ago (a mistake they won’t make again) and having to go elsewhere to get the money he felt he deserved. The Jazz did match on that offer but this might have left a scar.
Growing up in Indiana, Hayward’s favorite player was Reggie Miller, who played his entire career with just one team. Hopefully, Hayward will want to follow Miller’s path and stay a Jazzman for a long time.
Follow Kincade on Twitter @kincade12 or email him at email@example.com