Gordon Hayward’s Potential Free Agent Landing Destinations

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On May 8th, Gordon Hayward took off his white Utah Jazz Home Jersey, one that he’s donned for years, for what could possibly be the last time, following what may end up as his last game ever as a member of the Utah Jazz. The Jazz suffered a 121-95 loss at the hands of the rolling Golden State Warriors, who completed their second consecutive sweep of the 2017 NBA Playoffs. Hayward had a decent game, leading the Jazz with a casual 25 points, shooting at a 38.1% clip, partnered with 5 rebounds and 3 assists. Despite the effort, the Jazz failed to secure a lead in the game, as they started out slow, leading to a 17-6 deficit early on in the first quarter.

Following the conclusion of the semifinal playoff game, a lot of buzz arose regarding the future of Gordon Hayward in Utah. The 27 year-old shined in his seventh season, cementing himself as the face of the Utah Jazz franchise while simultaneously proving himself to be one of the best at his craft, earning his first NBA All-Star nod. Hayward averaged a career high 21.9 points per game on 47.1% shooting and grabbed an average 5.4 boards through the 73 games he played in. His phenomenal play led the Utah Jazz to a 51-31 record this year, seating them at the top of the competitive Northwest division, which features teams such as the Russell Westbrook led Oklahoma City Thunder and the Damian Lillard led Portland Trail Blazers. This was an eleven game improvement from last season and earned them the fifth seed in the incredibly competitive Western Conference.

Gordon Hayward is an unrestricted free agent this offseason once he opts out of his player option worth $16.7 million. With the summer of free agency right around the corner, here are some possible destinations for the seven year veteran.

5) Los Angeles Lakers

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The Los Angeles Lakers are already a team to keep an eye on in the next couple years. They have already put together a young core of up in coming stars through the draft, with D’Angelo Russell (21 years old), Julius Randle (22), and Brandon Ingram (19). On top of those youngsters, the Lakers will be bringing back Jordan Clarkson and veteran Nick Young. The Lakers also have the third best odds at the number one overall pick in this years draft (15.6%). This means they will be bringing in yet another young core piece to the roster, given that they keep the pick. In the case that the Lakers opt to deal their draft pick, they will be exchanging it for more assets to build around.

Where Gordon Hayward fits into the picture:

Hayward just came off the best season of his young NBA career so far and he just turned 27 in March, which is when most players enter the prime of their careers. The Lakers ranked dead last in the league in defensive efficiency this past season. A defensive upgrade is evidently needed and Hayward can bring Los Angeles just that. Hayward proved to be the best perimeter defender on the Utah Jazz, the third best ranked defense this year. Partnered with Ingram on the wing, the two would make it very hard for the opposing teams.

Hayward would also be the go-to player for the Lakers if he were to end up in the purple and gold. His offensive prowess would earn him the ball in late game situations if they needed a basket. His ability to knock down three pointers and get to the rim would fit him spectacularly into Luke Walton’s system. His ability to distribute the ball to his teammates is another plus.

According to Zach Lowe of ESPN, Indiana Pacers star, Paul George, would “love” to play alongside Gordon Hayward, and if the two were to team up in LA, you may be looking at yet another superteam. This is rather improbable, but just the possibility of the two playing together at Staples Center is unfathomable.

Will Gordon Hayward end up in Los Angeles?

Probably not. But the “ceiling is the roof” (shout out Michael Jordan) in Los Angeles and he would certainly be a good fit in the system.

4) Indiana Pacers

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The Indiana Pacers are coming off a 42-40 season where Myles Turner blossomed and Paul George played some of the  best basketball of his career. However, they were only able to secure seventh seed in the East, ultimately resulting in a four game sweep by the Cleveland Cavaliers. They are going to need another star to pair with George, Turner, Monta Ellis, and Jeff Teague if they want to be able to compete with LeBron James and the Cavaliers. Gordon Hayward is just the guy they need.

Where Gordon Hayward fits into the picture:

Hayward is a fantastic 3-and-D player and will be able to create and immediate impact on the team. Playing alongside George would be really exciting for the NBA to see and would certainly create buzz about their potential.

Will Gordon Hayward end up in Indiana?

Hayward would most likely only leave the Utah Jazz and ignore the massive pay day he would receive, in the case that he can sign with an immediate contender, and the Indiana Pacers do not seem to be that team.

3) Miami Heat

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Pat Riley has a major reputation for bringing big-time stars and players to the 305. Whether it is via trade or through free agency, he always seems to get what he wants namely, Alonzo Mourning in 1995 and Shaquille O’Neal in 2004. Just this past summer, Riley wooed Dion Waiters out of OKC to Miami for a one year deal worth $2.9 million. The Miami Heat were also one of NBA superstar Kevin Durant’s free agency finalists, before he opted to go west and sign with the Golden State Warriors. You can undoubtedly expect Pat Riley to play all of his cards and make an aggressive push to lock Gordon Hayward down in Miami for the 2017-2018 season.

How Gordon Hayward fits into the picture:

Hayward would be a perfect fit in Miami’s system. His playing style on offense would mash perfectly with Goran Dragic’s. The two would cause difficulty for the opposition, as it is hard to guard two shifty players who both have the ability to beat you to the basket while also having the capability of shooting from the perimeter (Hayward shot 39.8% while Dragic shot 40.5%). Hayward’s defensive abilities will also be a big upgrade to the Miami Heat roster. His outstanding perimeter defense, partnered with Justice Winslow’s suffocating defense, Goran Dragic’s eye for the ball, and the ludicrous shot blocking ability of defensive menace Hassan Whiteside will most definitely cause nightmares for the opposition.

On top of that, Miami Heat head coach, Erik Spoelstra, was recently named co-Coach of the Year for the 2016-2017 NBA season, sharing the Michael H. Goldberg award with Houston Rockets head coach, Mike D’Antoni. This award was well deserved, as Spoelstra really rallied the team throughout the season. The Heat started the season off 11-30, but finished the season 30-11, including a 13 game win streak, with notable wins versus the Golden State Warriors, Atlanta hawks, and Houston Rockets. The team was riddled with injuries (most notably Dion Waiters’ sprained left ankle, which caused him to miss Miami’s final 13 games), but finished at .500, just shy of grabbing the 8th seed in the Eastern Conference. Despite missing the playoffs, the season really showed the true character of the tough and determined Miami Heat roster (which consisted of various D-Leaguers throughout the season), proving that they have the mettle to compete in big games.

Listen to Erik Spoelstra struggle to find words during a press conference, as he commends the team on the season:

The Miami Heat also have tons of cap space this summer. With Chris Bosh’s contract out of the way, an abundance of money is available for Pat Riley to throw at free agents. Dion Waiters, James Johnson, and Willie Reed are most likely out of Miami, as their play this past season will certainly earn them a good raise this offseason from other teams around the league. The team is expected to have $30,887,668 in cap space this summer, which will give them a good shot at Gordon Hayward.

Aside from the basketball affairs, Miami is also a fantastic city to reside in, with beautiful beaches, wonderful nightlife, and not to mention the home of many celebrities. Who wouldn’t want to live in Miami? This gives players a wide variety of activities to partake in during the offseason or during off days, as opposed to the not-so glamorous lifestyle in Utah.

Will Gordon Hayward end up in Miami?

One can only imagine the potential of a Goran Dragic, Gordon Hayward, and Hassan Whiteside big three. The trio would definitely be a force to reckon with in the East and will be a formidable contender to dethrone the Cleveland Cavaliers. Watch for Pat Riley to aggressively target Hayward this offseason.

2) Boston Celtics

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The Boston Celtics have played phenomenal basketball this season, rising to the top and stealing the number one seed in the East from the reigining NBA champion Cleveland Cavaliers. They have been propelled to the top of the Eastern Conference playoff picture by the breakout season of Isaiah Thomas, who averaged 28.9 points per game this season, and by the great play of the newly added Al Horford. The supporting cast in Avery Bradley, Marcus Smart, Kelly Olynyk, Gerald Green, Jae Crowder, and Terry Rozier played huge factors in helping the C’s achieve a 53-29 record this season. The franchise is currently in the midst of a very physical series versus the Washington Wizards and is set to play Game 7 tonight, at 8 PM (EST) at TD Garden.

How Gordon Hayward fits into the picture:

First, Gordon Hayward would also be a great fit in Brad Steven’s system. He actually played for Stevens back in his collegiate days at Butler, where the two advanced all the way to the NCAA championship, where they fell 61-59 on Hayward’s heartbreaking, missed half court heave at the buzzer. A starting five consisting of Isaiah Thomas, Avery Bradley, Gordon Hayward, Amir Johnson, and Al Horford would most likely see another one seed and a possibly an NBA Finals appearance. Gordon Hayward brings a lot to the table with his offense and defense. He would be able to meld into the Boston Celtics system early on and transform the team into a legitimate championship contender.

Keep in mind that Boston was also one of the few teams that Kevin Durant had as finalists in his free agency sweepstakes last summer. The team had a very good pitch to KD, bringing in Boston sport legends Tom Brady, Julian Edelman, and David Ortiz. Those big names almost surely lured Durant to the Celtics, but he ultimately opted to sign with the Golden State Warriors to play alongside Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson.

The lifestyle in Boston is very good and the fans are crazy. In Boston, the fans treat the professional athletes like legends, as the city is home to many well known and successful sport franchises, including the New England Patriots (NFL), the Boston Red Sox (MLB), and the Boston Bruins (NHL). The fan support is out of this world as TD Garden will always be rocking and Fenway Park will make your eardrums bleed with the never ending chanting. The people of Boston are behind their teams and athletes, and they will treat Hayward no different. In fact, during the Celtics home game against the Jazz on January 3rd this season, fans were chanting Gordon Hayward’s name, perhaps in an act to recruit him. Celtics forward, Jae Crowder, overheard these chants and was very triggered. After the Celtics’ 115-104 win, he was quoted in the locker room saying, “I heard the cheering before the game. I didn’t like that at all. I think that was a sign of disrespect to me from the fans. That sparked a little fire in me.” Crowder continued to voice his emotions regarding the situation, prompting him to tweet the following:

Will Gordon Hayward end up in Boston?

All in all, if Gordon Hayward were to bolt form Utah in search of a ring, the Boston Celtics would be the perfect fit, as he would no longer have to burn out facing the tougher competition in the West early in the playoffs. The C’s are the best shot Hayward has at a championship, and now is the perfect time for him to jump ship as he enters his prime.

1) Utah Jazz

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Gordon Hayward will most likely stay in Utah and compete for a championship there, despite the odds that he will not succeed. There are many factors that play into the decision of staying “home” and showing loyalty to your team. It makes all too much sense for Gordon Hayward to stay in Utah for the next couple of years. We shall explore the reasons for Hayward to stay in Utah:

  1. Big Bucks- No one would be able to blame Gordon Hayward if he were to stay in Utah and get an enormous pay day. Staying in Utah will give him the most money possible, and if he is looking to exercise that option, you can’t be upset. If Hayward is to be named to one fo the three prestigious All-NBA teams in June, signing in Utah with his eight years of NBA experience would deem him eligible for the new Designated Veteran Extension. The contract would be worth 35% of the team’s current cap space, setting Hayward up for $235 million in the next six years. This deal is exclusive to Utah, as they are Hayward’s original team. Expect this to play a factor in his decision making.
  2. Face of the Franchise- Hayward is already the leader and alpha dog of the Utah Jazz. He has proven throughout his career that he is the cornerstone of the franchise and has the ability to come up big in the waning moments of a tight game. The Jazz are currently building around him, as they have surrounded him with defensive star Rudy Gobert and Joe Johnson in recent years, most notably, along with Shelvin Mack, Dante Exum, and George Hill. If he were to go to the Celtics, he may become second fiddle to Isaiah Thomas, but if he stays in Utah, he can play as the star and attempt to bring the first championship to Salt Lake City.
  3. Development- A lot of the supporting cast on the Utah Jazz are only seeming to grow better and better. The team is fairly young and Rudy Gobert is starting to rise into a star. The Stifle Tower backed his nickname this season, registering 2.6 blocks per game. The Jazz also saw players like Rodney Hood and Dante Exum start to show growth this season, along with Derrick Favors. This is not a commodity that many teams can say they have. Hayward himself is just entering his prime now, at 27, and if all these players peak at an ideal moment, there may be trouble brewing in Utah.
  4. Well Rounded Team- The Jazz seem to be a very well rounded team, as they are not afraid to go to their bench during big games, as shown by head coach Quin Snyder. The Jazz had 12 different players average 15+ minutes per game this season, showing the versatility they have in their second unit and beyond.
  5. Fan Support- The Utah Jazz fans seemed to treat Gordon Hayward well throughout his career. Despite the team not being in the best shape at times, not qualifying for the post-season 5 out of Hayward’s 7 seasons with the team. Through thick and thin, they showed him and the team continuous support; and this is makes it very difficult for a franchise player to leave, as it is his “home.” Following the Jazz’ last game of this season, fans throughout Vivint Smart Home Arena chanted, “GOR-DON HAY-WARD” repeatedly, showing love for their beloved star, aware of what this last game could mean.

After considering all this, I think it is safe to say that Gordon Hayward will be staying put in Utah for the next season at least, barring any major complications with his current franchise. If he wants a ring, he will be determined to win it in the green, blue and gold as a member of the Utah Jazz.


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