Utah Jazz Fans Would Keep Hayward Over Harden?


In recent polls on Google+ and Twitter, Utah Jazz fans overwhelmingly stated they would keep Gordon Hayward in a world where the team could swap him for James Harden.

The Google+ community established by Utah Jazz radio announcer David Locke is one of the better spots on the net for fans to share news and opinions about the team. Seriously, if you haven’t been there, go check it out — Locked On Sports.

Having said that, I was checking up on the community recently to see what stories had been sleuthed by the users there when I saw something that floored me.

It was a poll asking the fan base if, in some reality where this was a possibility, they would pull the trigger on a deal to trade Gordon Hayward and this year’s lottery pick for a top ten player in the league. The player in question was James Harden, and the answer–shockingly–was a resounding no.

As of this writing, 77 percent of respondents have stated their preference for Hayward. Seventy-seven percent.

In a market where fans have clamored for the next John Stockton or Karl Malone since the duo rode off into the sunset, in a league where you need a star (or two) to win, they would pass up the opportunity to acquire one of the two or three best scorers in the NBA.

When I saw this, I figured it was a fluke. The mob mentality run amok, temporary insanity, something! Especially given a vocal contingent of fans on social media that seem to tear Hayward down for sport; his steady ascension toward All-Star status notwithstanding.

So I tossed out a little poll of my own. There was no way lightning would strike twice. People would come to their senses. Whether they’d be doing it out of a legitimate desire to acquire a future Hall of Famer or just to hate, a majority of fans would have to choose Harden here, right?


For the record, I think Hayward is one of the best players at his position in the Association. He’s also been a positive presence for the team both on the floor and in the local community. Moreover, he fights the good fight for gamers like myself, disproving the tired stereotypes that continue to be regurgitated ad nauseam.

He’s exactly the kind of guy you would want in the blue, green and gold. And the fact that he has so much support in this kind of poll really speaks to the quality of his character and the strides he’s made as a player.

Meanwhile, James Harden is coming off a season where he averaged 29 points, 7.5 assists and six rebounds per game. His career shooting numbers also dwarf Hayward’s across the board. For all the griping about his tendency to play olé defense, he’s posted a positive net rating every year of his career.

He led the Houston Rockets to a 56-win season, a No. 2 seed in the west and a trip to the conference finals last year. And while his team regressed this season and limped to a .500 record, he still helped them secure the one thing Jazz fans coveted most–a playoff berth.

Much has been made of the fact that the primary focus in Utah has been development. To that end, the fan base has been patient as the young core has endured its growing pains. I’ve always looked at this as a positive; the mark of an intelligent group of fans that knew the ends would one day justify the means.

However, when I see that such a large percentage of Jazz Nation would shirk the opportunity to bring a bona fide difference maker into the fold in favor of hoping for more development from a player who will enter his seventh season in the league this fall, I wonder if patience has morphed into denial or outright indifference.

A foolhardy belief in a flawed strategy.

Even the team that is constantly cited as the one squad to capture the title without a true star–the 2004 Detroit Pistons–had a potential Hall of Famer in Chauncey Billups, a future All-Star in Richard Hamilton and the best defender in the league in Ben Wallace.

They also didn’t elect to stand pat and let their opportunity pass them by. Their trade to bring in one of the most talented big men in the league in Rasheed Wallace is what took things to the next level in the Motor City.

So while I get that Harden rubs people the wrong way and am not even close to being the guy that would call for the Jazz to actively shop Hayward to other teams, I worry when people are so opposed to the idea of swapping one for the other.

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I’d love for the core of Hayward, Derrick Favors, Rudy Gobert, Rodney Hood and Dante Exum to all hit their marks as players and bring a championship to Salt Lake City. But teams don’t usually bat 1.000 with their youngsters and become title contenders without savvy moves and star power.

Harden may or may not be the guy to get it done, but if not him, then who?

Gordon Hayward?

I love you, Jazz fans and it would be quite the feat, but unlike the 80ish percent of you to vote in the aforementioned polls, I’m not about to marry myself to the concept.

I can’t go for that. No–no can do.