The Utah Jazz are facing an offseason that has the potential to define the franchise for half a decade. Utah’s biggest star, Gordon Hayward, is a free agent with many teams vying for his services. Gordon Hayward will deserve every red carpet, presentation, banner, and present that he’s given during his free agency tour. He has worked hard to become an All-Star and one of the league’s premier Small Forwards. While many expect Hayward to re-sign with Utah what happens if he doesn’t?
The last time Hayward hit free agency, Utah won out by technical default: Hayward was a restricted free agent. This time Gordon Hayward can have his pick of litter without Utah matching and retaining him. Depending on Hayward’s decision Utah’s offseason goals might be geared at making a deeper postseason run next season, just squeeking into the postseason, or using the 2017-2018 season as a quick one year rebuild to return to the playoffs in 2019.
Scenario 1: Gordon Hayward returns to Utah
Offseason Goal: Build a team to compete for the #2 seed in the West
The Utah Jazz win the Gordon Hayward sweepstakes and he signs for a 1+1. Utah then turns its attention to Joe Ingles. Utah Jazz will first try to negotiate a contract with Joe Ingles before he hits the free market as a restricted free agent. Look for Joe Ingles to turn down Utah’s offer and find his true value on the free agent market. Utah in this scenario will still re-sign Joe Ingles as he and Gordon Hayward have phenomenal chemistry on the court.
Utah for the 5th offseason in a row will be looking to fill a vacancy at the point guard position. The curse of Deron Williams seems to have plagued this franchise. Since trading D-Will to Brooklyn the Utah Jazz have had Dante Exum, Shelvin Mack, Raul Neto, Mo Williams, Devin Harris, Trey Burke, and George Hill try their hand at the starting point guard position.
George Hill played the position beautifully, but only for 49 games. The Utah Jazz parted with the 12th pick in the 2016 NBA Draft for George Hill. While that was a steep cost, the Utah Jazz cannot let the sunk cost of that pick influence their future decision of re-signing George Hill; especially as George Hill is asking for quite a sizable contract that will limit Utah’s ability to sign additional talent around Gordon Hayward and Rudy Gobert. If George Hill decides to return to Utah with a more team friendly contract—which could happen seeing as his injury history and age could limit his bargaining power on the free market—then Utah would love to bring him back.
If George Hill’s asking price stays high then look for Utah to address their need at point guard either through trade by targeting available point guards like Eric Bledsoe or Ricky Rubio. Another possibility which would free Utah up to add additional talent would be to let Dante Exum run the show. That frees up cap space and allows them to use that cap space and a combination of the expiring contract of Derrick Favors, their two first round draft picks, and Alec Burks to obtain additional help. But this would be a huge risk and be betting the ability to re-sign Gordon Hayward in 2018 on Dante Exum’s offseason improvement.
Scenario 2: Gordon Hayward leaves—Build around Gobert fueled playoff run
Offseason Goal: Give Rudy Gobert enough pieces to make the playoffs as a 7 or 8 seed.
Gordon Hayward gets enamored with the idea of playing in Boston for his college coach. Utah starts to see the writing on the wall before the free agent period where he’ll sign a 4 year deal with the Boston Celtics.
Luckily the Utah Jazz still have 2nd team All-NBA Center Rudy Gobert and feel they have the requisite pieces to make a run at the playoffs. Dennis Lindsey looks to the draft to turn his two first round draft picks into a piece that will work well with Rudy Gobert. Utah decides to focus on their defensive identity and find a player who will disrupt an opponent on the defensive end.
Utah goes to Phoenix who is in full rebuild mode. They ship Derrick Favors + two 1st round draft picks for Eric Bledsoe. They then go to Dante Exum and inform him he will be their starting two guard next to Eric Bledsoe. The Utah Jazz will then turn to free agency and instead of spending their money on Gordon Hayward they bring back another Jazz favorite: Paul Millsap.
With Millsap reunited with Quin Snyder, Snyder decides that Utah’s plodding style will no longer work with two athletic guards on the perimeter. Dennis Lindsey also brings back Joe Ingles, Utah’s steals leader of last season, to further Utah’s defensive identity. Due to Utah’s goal of making a playoff run, Dennis Lindsey brings back Shelvin Mack to shore up a bench of Hood, Johnson, Lyles, and Bolomboy.
To make up for Gordon Hayward’s and George Hill’s playmaking, he speeds up the tempo and turns Utah into an opportunistic fast break team with the ability to disrupt passing lanes using the length of Bledsoe and Exum and the craftiness of Ingles and Millsap. With Rudy Gobert roaming the paint this Utah team is the embodiment of coach Quin Snyder. Feisty, fiery, and ready to run.
This lineup has the potential to compete for a playoff spot in the Western Conference.
Scenario 3: Gordon Hayward leaves—Quick Rebuild
Offseason Goal: Develop young talent with an eye toward the 2018 NBA Draft
Gordon Hayward gets enamored with the idea of playing in Miami and being near the beach. Utah starts to see the writing on the wall before the free agent period where he’ll sign a 4 year deal with the Miami Heat.
Dennis Lindsey starts to go through the steps of Scenario 2 but is coming up empty handed. He tries to move Derrick Favors and his first rounders for a solid piece to build around Rudy Gobert, but he can’t find a dance partner at the NBA draft. With no choice but to retain the draft picks Dennis Lindsey selects Johnathan Jeanne with the #24 pick and then punts on the #30 pick and trades it away for a protected 2018 pick after a prospect starts to fall in the draft.
Free agency comes and Dennis Lindsey swings and misses on Paul Millsap. While missing on Paul Millsap and Gordon Hayward, he matches Joe Ingles contract that he was offered by the Portland Trailblazers. With Ingles returning with his new contract in tow, Utah lets Shelvin Mack walk and keeps Raul Neto. With no big name point guard on the free agent market, Utah turns the reigns to Dante Exum. Utah luckily has Rudy Gobert for 3 more years so they can afford to focus on a quick 1 year rebuild to retool and develop their next core.
Quin Snyder decides to speed up the pace to match his young point guard. The Utah Jazz start the 2017-2018 season with a lineup of Exum, Hood, Ingles, Favors, and Gobert. Derrick Favors has injury woes yet again and the Utah Jazz turn to Trey Lyles. Trey Lyles starts to improve, but the Utah Jazz are lacking scoring power in their lineups. They’re forced to go to Joe Johnson throughout the regular season for a scoring punch. Joe Johnson gets hurt forcing Gobert to shoulder the offensive load. Teams begin to gameplan around that and stack the paint. Utah loses more and more games.
At the trade deadline the Utah Jazz take on a salary dump for a 1st round pick. Utah finishes the season strong much to the chagrin of Jazz fans going from the chance to have the #3 pick in the draft to the #6 pick thanks to the improvement of Dante Exum and Trey Lyles.
Which scenario is most likely?
This poll is closed
Gordon Hayward returns to Utah.
A Rudy Gobert fueled playoff run.
The Utah Jazz have a quick rebuild.