Right now the Utah Jazz are in a wait and see mode to see just how much money Gordon Hayward may be offered as a restricted free agent. He has plenty of suitors (as Shums pointed out in his Downbeat this morning), and plenty of fans in other markets want him. But, and this is the big one, so you can call it J-Lo, the Jazz have floated the idea out there that they will match. Is this smoke screen, or a bluff?
It seems to be an effective deterrent as Woj just tweeted this:
Cleveland's belief that Utah will match any Hayward offer sheet is strongly discouraging Cavs from extending one, league sources tell Yahoo.— Adrian Wojnarowski (@WojYahooNBA) July 3, 2014
If true, that is big. We knew that Hayward was visiting with Cleveland today, then a few sources (big sources, like ESPN) said that the Cavs were looking to START talks at $15 million a season. Later on during the day some people in Cleveland said that was false, but this is obviously a big enough deal that Woj is still following it. And big enough that his tweet suggests that the Cavs were willing to pull the trigger on a big deal.
How much of this is the inherent greatness of Hayward, though? I think his season last year was filled with positives and some negatives. I love his all around game, and think that in the right system he can improve even more. He's on the right track with his minutes per season (averages over 2,000 minutes every year), and he is a hard worker who wants to win every game he plays. These are great qualities to have.
Yes, his numbers to mimic that of Kendall Gill back when he was in New Jersey (the best player on a horrible team, had an average of 15 / 5 / 3 / 2), but he still produced for the most part. A 16 / 5 / 5 / /1 guy who can dribble, pass, and hit open threes is always someone you want on your team. And as a result, that's someone who needs to get paid.
That said, I believe a larger part of his market price is driven by the fact that many teams cleared room with the hopes of attracting a big free agent. There are but a few, and only some are still not spoken for. The Cavaliers tried to make space for the hope of luring one of these top level guys, perhaps even LeBron James. But they realize the folly of that and are now taking aim at secondary targets -- of which Hayward certainty is. As more and more teams that have money strike out on these top level guys we'll see a bidding war for people like Hayward start up.
If you believe in economics then you know this will be true. It's in Gordon Hayward's best interest to wait it out. Most teams that cleared space for LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony, Dwyane Wade, Lance Stephenson, and possibly Chandler Parsons will miss their targets. And they'll have money to spend. Hayward is going to look really great then. (Cleveland has already moved into this phase of the operation) All of Hayward's suitors will make life really fun for him for a few weeks.
Still a third factor in all of this has been the spending of teams, just in general. We try to live in an internally consistent world. Such that if player X gets so much, and is regarded as an inferior player to player Y, then player Y should get a proportionally accurate contract that is larger. Right?
So let's look at the deals so far:
|Player||POS||Old||New||$||Yrs||$ Avg. Sal|
Does Hayward deserve $15 million per, and is a more important player than Zach Randolph -- a guy who took his team to the Western Conference finals one year, and who signed on for $10 million per? Or does Hayward deserve $15 million because a guy like Avery Bradley is getting $8 million, and a guy like Jodie Meeks is getting $6 million and change? It's hard to figure out what's fair.
Jazz bluffs, teams going hard for their 2nd options, or Hayward just being good all add up to what exactly? Is it a max deal? Implicitly I think we would want Derrick Favors, holding steady at $12.25 million, to be our highest paid player. Is Hayward more important than Favors? Yes and no. Is he worth more? Again, yes and no. I think Clark said it best on twitter -- if Hayward reached terms with the Jazz last year and Favors did not, then this situation would be reversed.
And, as a result, if Favors was offered a max deal on the open market would we balk at paying him? Probably not. But that's again our opinion of market value -- a defensive big is more rare than a wing who can sometimes shoot, right?
The bottom line is that Hayward's market value is influenced by three factors. And ultimately none of them may matter, if the Jazz match no matter what. And right now that's what they are saying they will do.