The Cleveland Cavaliers may be gearing up to offer restricted free agent Gordon Hayward a max-level contract, but that won’t stop the Utah Jazz from matching the offer sheet, reports Jody Gennessy of the Deseret News.
“Still hearing that Jazz are intent on keeping Gordon Hayward and matching other teams’ offers if he doesn’t get one from them first.”
Hayward, the Jazz’s starting shooting guard last year, recently completed his rookie contract with the team. Now a restricted free agent, he’s free to sign offer sheets with any of the other 29 teams, though Utah retains the right to match any offer.
While it has long been expected that Hayward would eventually stay in Utah, the looming possibility of a max contract offer complicates the situation. The Jazz don’t lack available cap space, but the team may not want to stomach a max contract for a guy who has seen his shooting efficiency drop every year of his career.
At 24 years old, Hayward remains a highly talented swingman who can contribute on both ends of the floor, but he’s struggled to progress as a scorer while taking on a larger workload. Last season, Hayward played a career-high 36 minutes per game, but saw his shooting percentages drop across the board.
That shouldn’t be enough for Utah to bail on him, particularly given the progress he’s made in other aspects of his game, but it could factor into the team’s decision to match any max offer. However, after spending four years developing the skinny wing out of Butler, Utah may want to see just what he can do as he reaches his prime.
Hayward averaged 16.2 points, 5.2 assists and 5.1 rebounds over 77 games last season, all career-highs.
Another possibility for Hayward and the Jazz is a sign-and-trade. If Utah doesn’t want to match a max offer but still wants to get value out of the situation, the team could sign-and-trade Hayward on a max deal to a team like the Cavaliers, which would likely send players and/or picks back the other way.