As the San Antonio Spurs look to improve this offseason so that they can challenge the Golden State Warriors, could adding Utah Jazz All-Star Gordon Hayward be a part of their plans?
In a recent Sports Illustrated article, author Danny Leroux went over the immediate future of the San Antonio Spurs, focusing on this upcoming offseason as well as that of 2018. Whether you’re a fan of the Spurs or not, it’s a very interesting and well put together read about one of the league’s long-time powerhouses.
If you’re a Utah Jazz fan, you might find even more of a reason to be intrigued by the piece as when speaking about free agent options for the Spurs, Leroux mentions none other than Utah’s very own Gordon Hayward. That segment of the article reads as follows:
"Chris Paul and Gordon Hayward are the two clearest fits, though Paul already being 32 makes it harder to imagine him as a central long-term piece playing next to the 25-year old Leonard. That age discrepancy makes the 27-year old Hayward a more compelling option that could create some fascinating lineup possibilities for Popovich."
He’s certainly right about that – Hayward would make a compelling option for the Spurs. Although both Gordon Hayward and Kawhi Leonard are small forwards, one or the other could easily slide up or down depending on whether Coach Popovich opted to go big or small. With that being the case, imagine opponents trying to find a way to stop both Leonard and Hayward, not to mention LaMarcus Aldridge who would then become San Antonio’s third option on offense.
Defensively, Leonard’s skills are well documented, but Hayward is also an underrated defender. Putting Leonard against opponents’ best player while using Hayward as a secondary defender would be absolutely deadly. Both are in some of their prime years and there’s no doubt that Gordon could help the Spurs take a significant leap towards challenging the Golden State Warriors.
However, while Hayward will undoubtedly be sought after this offseason and the Spurs could very well find themselves among the long list of suitors, I have a hard time believing that they’ll end up nabbing the Jazzman. First of all, financially the Spurs would have their work cut out for them to pay for Leonard, Hayward and Aldridge, not to mention the question marks surrounding Pau Gasol’s player option for 2017-18.
Yet San Antonio has long been known as a wizard franchise in terms of stretching their dollars and getting the talent they want without breaking the bank, so they should never be counted out solely by that aspect. But beyond that, even though both Leonard and Hayward would be versatile enough to play with one another, I’m not convinced that the Spurs would want to add a guy who’s best position is the same as Kawhi’s.
Instead, it makes more sense that the Spurs will pursue a point guard that can help ease the transition of Tony Parker’s decline and help the young Dejounte Murray blossom. Maybe Patty Mills is that guy, but given the impending free agency of guys like Chris Paul and Kyle Lowry, I’m betting that the Spurs will look to add a veteran such as one of them to the mix.
Therefore, while it’s interesting to imagine what it would be like to put Hayward and Leonard together on the same lineup, I don’t think it’s going to happen. However, Gordon has made it clear that he wants to play for a winning squad and if the Spurs were to come knocking, it might be hard for him to turn them down.
Fortunately, my bet is that San Antonio doesn’t exactly come knocking, at least not to the degree where Hayward becomes their top offseason priority. By the time he would maybe become such, I suspect they’ll likely have already netted another prize or that Gordon will have agreed to a deal elsewhere.
Still, the fact that Hayward was brought up in conjunction with the Spurs in that Sports Illustrated article is probably somewhat nerve-wracking for Jazz fans. There’s still over a month until free agents can begin signing with their teams, but you can bet that every rumor, hunch and bit of speculation regarding Hayward is going to put them on edge.
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There will be many temptations along the way – the Boston Celtics, the Indiana Pacers, perhaps the San Antonio Spurs and more – but ultimately Utah fans will have to simply hope that Jazz brass and Gordon’s teammates have done enough to convince him that the home he’s built in Utah is worth staying for.