Mar 8, 2014; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Utah Jazz guard Gordon Hayward (20) is defended by Philadelphia 76ers guard Elliot Williams (25) during the third quarter at Wells Fargo Center. The Jazz defeated the Sixers 104-92. Mandatory Credit: Howard Smith-USA TODAY Sports

Gordon Hayward: The Next Cleveland Cavalier?

It’s been beyond expected, and has been easy to see for the past several years.  The Cleveland Cavaliers have been building steadily towards the summer of 2014 with the express intent upon signing back the best player in the world…LeBron James.

Ever since James left for South Beach, the goal in Cleveland has been to rebuild a roster that was bereft of talent after his departure.  Despite the talent that has been added to the roster over the years (Kyrie Irving, Dion Waiters, Tristan Thompson, etc.), there is still a possible void left at small forward with the possible (likely?) departure of Luol Deng.

The thinking in Cleveland, and 29 other NBA markets, is that LeBron would perfectly fill that role if he were to sign this summer.  He could instantly change the team’s fortune from that of fighting for the ninth seed in the East to potentially being a legitimate contender.  The combination of LeBron with the young talent is a tantalizing dream.

Of course, the worry for the front office of the Cavaliers is that three years of planning could be all for nothing.  James could easily choose any team he wants, or could simply delay his choice by not opting out of his current contract with the Miami Heat.  This fear, and smart thinking, has pushed the Cavs into thinking about back-up options, and Gordon Hayward seems to be at the front of their wish list.

The Utah Jazz tried frantically to sign Hayward to an extension last summer, but failed to do so with the allure of free agency.  Hayward has been at the forefront of summer rumors with plenty of teams reportedly interested in the 24-year-old.  Howard Beck speculates Hayward’s value at around $9-10 million annually, but with so many teams interested that price could skyrocket.  Teams also need to consider the fact that Hayward will be a restricted free agent, giving the Utah Jazz the right to match any contract that he agrees to.  Part of the financial question must then be, how much will be enough to get him out of Utah?

With a possible $12+ million dollar price range, would Hayward bring enough value to make it a worthwhile risk for Cleveland?  With four years of experience in the league, Hayward brings an intriguing mixture of physical attributes, and well-rounded abilities.  At 6’8″, with a smooth jumper and good court vision, Hayward has shown that he can be an offensively imposing player.

Looking at the stats for 2013-2014, which of these two players would you prefer on your team?

Rk G GS MP FGA FG% 3PA 3P% FTA FT% TRB AST STL BLK TOV PTS
1 70 70 36.3 13.4 .414 3.7 .313 4.7 .816 5.1 5.2 1.5 0.5 2.8 16.1
2 51 50 33.5 14.2 .546 0.5 .321 4.7 .747 4.6 4.8 1.5 0.5 3.0 19.2
Provided by Basketball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 4/3/2014.

Players one is Gordon Hayward.  Player two?  Dwyane Wade.  Stylistically speaking, these two players couldn’t be much different, but statistically they are having remarkably similar seasons to date.

Even considering Wade’s (chronic?) knee problems, no one would would give serious question his signing of a new max contract this summer.  Granted, Wade is still capable of consistently providing more on the defensive end than Hayward is able to, but with the right teammates in place Hayward shows enough effort to not be a defensive liability.

The question is whether Hayward can build upon what he has already done, and become a key part of a championship roster.  If Cleveland is going to give him enough money to make Utah balk, then they better be sure that he can be.

Tags: Cleveland Cavaliers Gordon Hayward

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