This past summer Gordon Hayward decided to not sign an extension with the Utah Jazz and instead become a restricted free agent. Some feel that Hayward should have signed the deal, that it is a huge risk to go into the season without a contract, others feel Hayward made the right decision, why not keep his options open for the possibility of more money? Since Hayward is not currently under contract for next season there is a lot of talk about whether the Jazz should trade him, or are the Jazz really willing to match any offer like Dennis Lindsey said this summer.
On June 24, 2010 Gordon Hayward became a member of the Utah Jazz. As one of the most anticipated picks in Utah history fans were a bit surprised at the pick. The Jazz received the Knicks pick which allowed them to pick Hayward in the 2010 NBA draft by a trade they made with the Phoenix Suns in 2004. For six years all Jazz fans heard about was the Knick's pick. Nearly every trade proposal by fans and the media included that Knick's pick. The pick was so highly talked of that Amar gave him the nickname of the Precious.
Kevin O'Connor said to Jazz fans after their less that optimistic reaction when Hayward was drafted.
"The only thing I hope is in two years you're not booing."
Kevin O'Connor also told Hayward
Everyone will think you're the greatest thing since canned soup.
Coach Jerry Sloan said the boos comprised a "natural reaction" for fans who "aren't familiar with what we're trying to accomplish. We're trying to get the best player, and sometimes that's not who everybody wanted."
Jerry further went on to say
Maybe we would have liked to have had bigger bodies. ... It just didn't materialize — and just to take someone because they were big or that sort of thing doesn't make you a better team
Fans like Jerry said, booed because they didn't know the plans for the Jazz. Fans obviously didn't know that the Jazz were seeking a big man in a trade (Al Jefferson) later in the summer, nor that they would let Kyle Korver and Wesley Matthews walk away in free agency. Many changes were made for the Jazz that summer and then even greater changes came later on in the season. The Jazz as we knew it when Hayward was drafted was gone and became a completely different team.
Hayward and Jeremy Evans, through more changes in the summer of 2013 became the longest tenured Jazz players on the team this season. Dennis Lindsey in the summer of 2013 made the pointed decision to turn the team over to the young players which made Gordon Hayward and Derrick Favor the leaders of the team and the faces of the franchise.
Because of the constant changes the Jazz have made during Hayward's time with the team, Hayward really hasn't had a consistent role nor stability in offensive and defensive schemes to be the consistent player that fans are seeking.
Hayward has had four different starting point guards, his four years with the team. Hayward went from playing the flex offense with Deron Williams and Jerry Sloan to iso-ball with Al Jefferson and Tyrone Corbin. How is Hayward suppose to grow as a player and develop to be the best player he is capable of becoming with that many changes in such a short period of time?
Before this year Hayward was not a regular starter nor was he permanently a sixth man. Hayward went back and forth from starting to coming off the bench.
After having games like this his rookie year
And scoring 34 in the 2011 final season game in a dominating fashion against the Nuggets. Fans were excited about Haywards potential and felt he would be clear starter and a big part of the team. In the 2011-2012 season Hayward's role would get lost amongst wing players like Josh Howard and Raja Bell. The Jazz would continue to play Alfense which was an offense that would not play to any players strength besides Al Jefferson.
During the 2012-2013 season Hayward would lose his starting role to Randy Foye and Marvin Williams. Hayward only started 27 games. Once again consistency was not seen in Hayward's play or the role that Tyrone Corbin assigned to him.
Finally after four seasons Hayward has a consistent role on the Utah Jazz. Hayward is averaging more minutes per game than he has his entire career at 36.4mpg. In the 43 games that Hayward has played this season he has started every single one. Haywards shooting percentages are down, the lowest in his career but his steals and assists are up.
Its hard to know why Hayward's field goal percentages are low this season. I do think that despite Hayward's consistent role maybe he doesn't have the right role. Maybe the offense that the Jazz are running doesn't compliment Hayward's skills. Or maybe Hayward will just never be a consistent player.
There are many outlying factors that influence how a player succeeds on a team and as a player. Hayward has had to deal with going from being drafted to one of the most stable organizations in the NBA with a HOF coach and an All-NBA point guard to having Ty Corbin as a coach and a roster full of young (underdeveloped) players and mercenary vets. A team that was designed to lose. Being the leader of a team like that would be hard for most players that aren't perennial all-stars. Gordon also has the disadvantage of being handed the keys to a team that has a lame duck coach looking for his next contract and a GM who said this year would be a year of development and discovery. Seeing that the head coach and the front office have different objectives makes it very difficult for a player to play to their potential and be a leader.
I can understand why Hayward wouldn't sign a contract with a team under such unstable circumstances, a team that has been changing every season that Hayward has been a member of it. I can also understand why the Jazz didn't want to overpay for Hayward this past summer. This season is big for Hayward and the front office and this offseason will be even bigger, I can understand why both would want to leave their options open.
Based on Hayward's performance with the team what would you do with him? Would you trade him this season, match any offer he receives including a max or hope he can be re-signed for something reasonable?