We're in the doldrums of NBA Free Agency right now. Teams can't sign players. And bigger name free agents are waiting to see who moves where before making a commitment. For the Utah Jazz this is fine, they have money to spend and are going to spend at least some of it this off-season. (Cap Space and Roster Breakdown here) For Jazz fans, on the other hand, the wait is killing them. The main target / worry / dream this off-season is to get it all in writing that Gordon Hayward returns to the team that drafted him. Some want him at any cost, others know there should be a limit. But for the most part, no one can deny that a) he's not worth a max contract, and b) that he is really, really important to the Jazz team anyway.
What if the Jazz decide the go with caution, and balk at matching an offer for him? What we have heard all off-season is that they will match any over. I hope they do, because I am a Hayward supporter. But this is the hypothetical situation if they do not. And within this hypothetical situation we actually find real things to be happy about.
1. Trickle Down Minutes:
Gordon Hayward played 2,800 minutes last season, and has averaged at least 2,000 minutes a season for each of his years in the league. Someone else will have to play those minutes. No Gordon means that the team is more than likely to experiment a little more, instead of trying to fill in people around preconceived slots. The primary beneficiaries of a Gordon-less Jazz are Dante Exum, Alec Burks, and Rodney Hood. It's easy to see why. Rodney Hood will have plenty of time at the SF spot, and be able to supplement his time on the floor at the SG or PF spots depending on what Quin Snyder does. Alec Burks will be able to play some SF for the team. And because of this, Dante Exum will be free to play wherever he needs to. This works out on the other end of the spectrum as well, as guys like Jeremy Evans or Malcolm Thomas may get some burn at the three, instead of being in that dogfight at the four spot.
Furthermore . . .
2. Money to spend:
Not having $15 million tied up in one player means a more equal distribution of money to player -- including signing some free agents who can help the team grow, and play better. The Jazz may not need to settle for guys like Malcolm Thomas, and instead had money to throw at someone else -- and really, the Jazz will have money to throw at EVERYONE else if they don't sign Hayward. This also works out well for the Jazz because they seem to champion flexibility. And we've seen that this previous seasons with the Jazz helping teams without cap space dump some salary. We get assets in return though, which is great because future picks >>> mediocrity now. Right?
3. Team will have more harmony between personnel and coaching playbook:
Quin Snyder was a point guard. He helped modernize the Duke offense to take advantages of the roster, and not be fixed into a specific offensive set. He has two young, talented, point guards on the roster right now in Trey Burke and Dante Exum. Running a forward oriented offense is great if that's your finisher (Dick Motta offense that the Jazz have been using for years, be it Adrian Dantley, or Karl Malone, or Andrei Kirilenko, or Carlos Boozer, or whomever), the trendy thing is to have your forward be your playmaker. Gordon tried that last season. I think it's a role he is good at. But I think Snyder will look at this roster and see the obvious strength at point guard, and run the team based on that strength. And he has the personal experience and playbook to make it work.
4. Internally consistent lineups:
This may be more of a product of having an actual head coach on the team this season, but I am excited to see some internally consistent lineups. We're not going to go small, and play a half court, grind it out game. There are going to be times when you see Trey Burke, Dante Exum, Alec Burks, Steve Novak, and Derrick Favors out on the court at once. Burke and Novak will be the guys spotting up, while Exum is the guy who penetrates like Tony Parker. Favors will be around the rim, and Burks will cut and move without the ball. That's a lineup that makes sense. Another would be Dante, Alec, Rodney, Enes Kanter, and Rudy Gobert. Floor balance, and an emphasis on getting the rebounds. And once you have rebounds, then you can run.
Hayward's skill set in a way set him apart. He was a pass first forward, who was forced to play shooting guard because the head coach had a soft spot for veteran SFs in contract years. And because of that the lineups were inherently inconsistent. Gordon can be part of consistent lineups, but I think you would see more regularity with him not on the team than on. Mainly because his versatile skillset can trend him towards spots on the floor where he does not excel.
5. Fans would have have another "fish that got away" story to moan about:
This isn't something to be happy about, but some miserable people can only be at peace if they are grumpy and grumbling about things. So, for you people out there, a Non-Hayward Jazz would satisfy this grim requirement. Ha.
That's a cop-out answer. Personally, I can't see the Jazz not-matching an offer for a guy that they have been promoting for years. Furthermore, despite what "could be" if G-time isn't there, I do think that the franchises' needs are better served with him here. Minutes will be hard to get, but hopefully that means that competition level will be high. I like Hayward's versatility, but I think under the right coach he can lean to streamline his game towards his strength. This means being a less versatile player, but ultimately a more useful one.