Earlier this week, there was some chatter about the Jazz and Gordon Hayward making progress towards an extension following Derrick Favors’ extension. However, Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports is reporting that the Jazz and Gordon Hayward are “far apart in discussions” with nothing “resembling even the baseline” for an agreement.
This news may come as a surprise, but actually it makes some sense for the Jazz to hold off on signing Hayward to a lucrative long-term deal. First off, he’s going to be a restricted free agent next summer, which means the Jazz can match any offer for him. Secondly, they have a lot of different young pieces to evaluate in addition to Hayward like rookie point guard Trey Burke, 3rd year shooting guard Alec Burks, and 3rd year center Enes Kanter. Evaluating those guys in addition to Hayward this year could give them a better sense of as to whether or not they want to lock up Hayward for the long term. If he has a big year, they can give him his money, and match whatever offer sheet he signs in the summer (similar to what happened when Paul Millsap signed a big offer sheet with the Trail Blazers). If he doesn’t, then they can re-sign him to a smaller deal and then go from there.
The Jazz are eager to lock up their future and know who they are going forward, but they also have the luxury of not really being in a hurry either. This team is a work in progress, and won’t contend for quite a while. Why not take the time to make sure you have the right pieces in place instead of signing somebody to a long-term deal that you end up not wanting out of sheer panic? Remember the Andrei Kirilenko contract? How did that work out? It didn’t work out so good. The only reason AK-47 got such a whopping contract in excess of $17M a season was because the franchise panicked and didn’t see Deron Williams, Carlos Boozer, and Mehmet Okur coming right around the corner.
The Jazz need to do the opposite and really make sure they know what they have in these young players. Locking up Favors is easier to justify because he was acquired in the Deron Williams trade and he’s a potentially dominant power forward. Taking a risk on a guy like that just makes sense. But as for Hayward, he doesn’t have that kind of potential upside, which justifies the Jazz being more cautious about signing him to a long-term extension right now. Especially since last season he didn’t exactly wow people with his 14 points, 3 rebounds, and 3 assists a game. He played ok, but he didn’t have any sort of breakout season like fellow draft classmate Paul George who got picked later than he did.
The bottom line here is don’t expect the Jazz to sign Hayward to an extension before the October 31st deadline. It could happen, but it very well may not for all the reasons I just mentioned. Either way, there’s pressure on Gordon Hayward. If they give him a lucrative extension now, then the pressure to show he’s worth that money is squarely on his shoulders. If they don’t, then the pressure is on him to prove them that they were wrong. Whatever the outcome is, it will definitely be interesting to see how Gordon Hayward plays this season as one of the key leaders on a very young and inexperienced Utah Jazz team.
—Ben Parker: follow me on twitter @nba_lord