Michael Jordan is causing Jazz fans fits all over again. Sixteen years ago, Jordan did it with a free-throw line jumper. This time around, he is doing it with his checkbook. Thanks to Jordan and his Charlotte Hornets, the Utah Jazz will have to pay max dollars for the opportunity to bring Gordon Hayward back into the fold. All indications are that is what the Jazz will do once the moratorium is lifted and players can sign on the dotted line.
That has created quite a stir among many fans who believe that Hayward isn't worth that kind of money at this point in his career. Nightmares of an Andrei Kirilenko max deal are often mentioned when re-signing Hayward is the topic at hand.
While re-upping Hayward at max money is an interesting proposition, it isn't nearly as bad as the contract that Kirilenko received from the Jazz brass. The Jazz will still have plenty of cap flexibility with Hayward back in town and won't have to worry about the luxury tax threshold. Although matching the Hornets' offer isn't a bad move, there are still plenty of other options the Jazz should explore before putting pen to paper.
Here is a look at some of the options that the Jazz should consider before matching on Gordon Hayward.
The Hornets have some nice young pieces who haven't panned out quite the way that anybody expected, but still have plenty of value and potential. The two names that come to mind are Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and Cody Zeller. Neither has been overly impressive during their time with the Hornets, but that is part of the growing pains most players experience when coming into the NBA.
Kidd-Gilchrist isn't much of an offensive weapon, but he is only 20 and already has shown the ability to be a very good wing defender. Zeller had a decent rookie year and would be a great fit for the Jazz as a stretch four. He doesn't have NBA 3-point range on his jumper, but is a solid face-up big who will only get better.
There are some very skilled free agents who are on the down side of their illustrious careers who would be a great fit in Utah. The names that come to mind are Paul Pierce, Ray Allen, Shawn Marion and Vince Carter. Chances of landing any of these players is slim, but it's at least worth a phone call or two. All were All-Stars in their day and understand what it takes to be great in the league for a long time. They also still have some gas left in the tank to win some games right away while mentoring all the young players on the Jazz roster.
Hayward is a solid piece that the Jazz plan on building around, but he isn't the only player who is available in free agency who could fill that role. Luol Deng, Greg Monroe, Chandler Parsons and maybe even Lance Stephenson all fit in that category. None of the guys on this list deserves max money right now, but neither does Hayward, so why not take a shot.
Deng has been in the league for 10 years but is only 29 years old. He can score the ball as well as play great perimeter defense. Monroe is just 24 years old and is a double-double machine. He would be a great fit next to Derrick Favors as the scoring big man the Jazz are looking for.
Parsons has a very similar skill set to Hayward but shot the ball much better a season ago. He has good size and great vision and is 25 years old. Stephenson is the wild card of the bunch. He had his best season a year ago and helped propel the Pacers to the Eastern Conference Finals. He can get to the rim, rebound the ball and is an excellent passer. He may be even better on the defensive side of the ball because of his frame and footwork.
If LeBron James lands back in Cleveland and Chris Bosh takes his talents to Houston, that would leave Dwyane Wade without a natural landing spot. Why not offer him a full max deal to spend the last four years of his career in Utah. Wade is clearly past his prime thanks to injuries, but when he is on the floor he is still a star. He shoots a great percentage from the floor and knows how to be a leader. Who better to teach the Jazz young weapons how to be great than a player who has been at or near the top of the mountain his entire career.
There are plenty of high draft picks from the last few drafts who haven't quite found their footing in the NBA as of yet. A handful of them are free agents and could be had for a very reasonable price. None of them are expecting a huge payday so adding a couple of them would be possible. The most interesting of the bunch are Al-Farouq Aminu, Xavier Henry, Wesley Johnson, Jan Vesely and Evan Turner.
Aminu is a great rebounder for the small forward position and a solid defender who is only 23. Henry bounced around after being selected in the first round in 2010, but proved he could score during his lone season with the Los Angeles Lakers. Johnson also revived his career with the Lakers last year. He is a gifted athlete who can do a bit of everything on the floor.
Vesely hasn't had great luck in the NBA but hasn't had much of a chance either. When he has found minutes, Vesely showed the ability to be a sold rebounder and shot blocker.
Turner is the most intriguing of all. He was having a career year in 2013-14 when the Philadelphia 76ers traded him to the Indiana Pacers at the deadline. He was on a similar career path to Hayward before that move, but struggled with the Pacers and lost all of his leverage. Turner doesn't have great touch from the outside but knows how to score the ball. He is also a stat stuffer just like Hayward and is a solid defender.