Our latest NBA rumor has come via Brian Windhorst of ESPN, who has tweeted that the Cleveland Cavaliers are preparing a contract offer for restricted free agent Gordon Hayward. If that was the whole story, we’d be good. The minor wrinkle — they’re offering him a maximum contract. What does this mean for the Utah Jazz and what are the Cavs up to?
Cavs believed to be preparing a max offer sheet for restricted free agent Gordon Hayward, sources said. Yahoo reported he is visiting today
— Brian Windhorst (@WindhorstESPN) July 2, 2014
Hayward had a very good 2013-14 campaign, averaging 16.2 points, 5.1 rebounds, 5.2 assists and 1.4 steals for a Utah Jazz team that won just 25 games and finished last in the NBA’s Northwest Division. Although he was considered a shooter when he entered the league, he’s regressed a bit in recent years. Last season, he shot just 41.3 percent from the field and only 30.4 percent from the 3-point line.
For Hayward, it appears as if the more active he’s become, the more difficulty he’s had creating his own shot (or at the very least, creating a quality shot). Hayward’s usage percentage has gone up each season, from 15.3 percent in his rookie year to 23.1 percent last season. Conversely, his field goal shooting has gone down, from 48.5 percent to 41.3 last year.
Some of that could be attributed to the fact that he’s a Wally Szczerbiak-type player, who is a very good shooter when he has the ability to plant his heels and get set. Creating just isn’t one of his strong suits. In his rookie season, 68.2 percent of his field goals were assisted upon. Last year? Just 40.2 percent. All of this points to one big thing — Hayward is a very good player, but he’s not suited to be a No. 1 option.
The Cavs potential offering of a maximum contract puts the Utah Jazz in a real bind. There’s no way they’ll be excited about paying someone maximum money when they don’t envision him as a No. 1 guy. At the same time, free agents aren’t flocking to Utah and they will have to overpay in order to hold onto Hayward.
If the Jazz let Hayward go, who exactly will they lean on in 2014-15? The trio of Trey Burke, Alec Burks and Derrick Favors doesn’t exactly strike fear in the hearts of Western Conference foes. With that said, they’ll have plenty of cap room to go after some of the second-tier guys who don’t get swallowed up by the bigger markets.
For Cleveland, an offer sheet to Hayward would lock up cap space that they’d ideally like to use to lure LeBron James back to town. This move would essentially end any ideas of that happening. The Cavs are already at $46.5 million in salaries for 2014-15 and with Hayward’s max deal (plus Andrew Wiggins), they’d be left with crumbs.
In the end, it’s a very intriguing situation. Should the Jazz overpay to keep their guy or let the Cavs overpay in hopes that he doesn’t blossom into a superstar?