In a recent interview with 1280 The Zone, Basketball Insiders’ Steve Kyler stated he believes that Gordon Hayward’s chances of staying with the Utah Jazz are 60-40.
Overshadowing what was a phenomenal 2016-17 season for the Utah Jazz was the fact that at the end of the year, Gordon Hayward would be an unrestricted free agent with the very real possibility of leaving Utah for supposed greener pastures. As if that knowledge wasn’t hard enough, while it was incredible to see Hayward develop into a true All-Star, his leap forward in production has made the thought of losing him even more unbearable.
Nevertheless, several NBA experts have commended the Jazz for creating an environment that truly ought to be enticing for Hayward to stay. Not long ago in an interview with 1280 The Zone, NBA analyst and former coach Jeff Van Gundy stated that he believed Hayward would stay put to “see the project through in Utah.”
That entire interview left me feeling hopeful and quite optimistic about Utah’s chances of retaining their budding All-Star. However, like most Jazz fans have gone through I imagine, my gut feeling has seemed to go back and forth like a pendulum in regards to whether Hayward will indeed stay with the Jazz or not.
And, unfortunately, a recent interview once again on 1280 The Zone caused my personal pendulum to swing back to the negative side.
Yesterday, Basketball Insiders’ Steve Kyler joined 1280 The Zone to discuss several things, specifically this year’s NBA Draft, Utah’s draft day decisions and the state of current local players that have declared for the draft. The interview is a fantastic listen and I recommend that Jazz fans check it out in its entirety via the link in the tweet below:
However, the part of the interview that was most intriguing and currently pertinent to Jazz fans was where Kyler discussed the impending decision of Gordon Hayward. In short, Kyler said he believes that there’s a 60 percent chance that he stays with the Jazz and a 40 percent chance that he leaves.
Now, some may say that doesn’t look too bad, given that 60 percent is indeed the majority. However, in basketball we all know how deadly a 40 percent three-point shooter is, and in my mind that’s way too high of a probability that Hayward will look to go elsewhere. Not to mention, Kyler’s comments on the situation in spite of his belief that the odds favor Hayward staying in Utah are far less than reassuring.
Here’s what he had to say on the matter in its entirety:
"Well there’s a risk here. He’s going to take meetings – my understanding is that’s going to happen – that’s never a good thing. You know the Oklahoma City Thunder went into this process last year feeling like they were the front runners for Kevin Durant and lost him. They lost him because he took meetings and he heard things that maybe he wasn’t expecting to hear so you never know how that process is going to go.But, you know, because Gordon didn’t get All-NBA and the Jazz can’t show up with $40 million more than everybody else, his agent owes it to him to make sure that he listens and it’s ultimately his decision.I’ve been told it’s a lot more 60-40 right now – that 60 percent coming back, 40 percent that he leaves – but that’s not a fun equation because 60 becomes 50 becomes 40 the other way. So, it does get a little bit scary in this that he could opt to go somewhere else. And I think when you look at the sheer dominance of the Golden State Warriors in this, you have to ask yourself, “Is that team going anywhere?” and is there any combination of things the Jazz are going to do both internally and externally to get you in a situation to compete?Whereas the Boston Celtics – could you compete with the Cleveland Cavaliers next year and be in the NBA Finals next year? That’s a very real thing that Boston’s going to be selling in the marketplace. It could be hard for the Jazz to overcome the fact that no matter how good they get internally they just may not be able to catch the Warriors when their window is wide open because this Warrior team really isn’t going to go anywhere."
Kyler then went on to allude to the fact that if the Warriors were five years older, we may not even be having this conversation as the Jazz could very well be able to capitalize on their closing window and surpass them with Hayward in the mix. However, that is far from the truth as this Warriors team is extremely young and will remain intact for four or five more years, at least.
In other words, even if the Jazz sign Hayward to the longest, most lucrative deal possible, he may be stuck with facing a historically dominant Warriors team each and every year of that contract with the Jazz. And that isn’t a very reassuring thought. In fact, Kyler himself said that Golden State’s dominance that doesn’t look to be ending any time soon could very well be the factor that “pushes Gordon Hayward out.”
Some might argue that regardless of what conference you’re in, you’ll likely eventually have to face and topple the Warriors. While there is some truth to that, as I alluded to in a piece I wrote yesterday, there’s also a natural increase in probability that comes from actually making it to the NBA Finals.
And assuming a Gordon Hayward-led Boston team could surpass the Cleveland Cavaliers, there’s a great chance that they would indeed make it to the NBA Finals to do battle with the Warriors there, whereas the Jazz may just find themselves running into the Golden State Warriors in the Conference Finals or Semifinals year, after year, after year.
What worried me the most about the comments made in that interview was the parallel that Steve Kyler drew to Hayward taking meetings this season and Kevin Durant taking meetings last year. For a while it did indeed seem like there was no way KD could leave the rising OKC Thunder behind, but at the end of the day, they couldn’t top the allure of Golden State.
If Boston is indeed in win-now mode with an unquenchable thirst to topple LeBron and win an NBA title, then as I also mentioned yesterday, Gordon Hayward could have a very difficult time turning down a desperate and determined Boston team. Therefore, this 60-40 prediction is frightening at best, and quite honestly I’m ready to simply call it a 50-50 coin toss right now.
Hopefully that’s a coin that will fall the Jazz’s way.
Following Kyler’s input on Gordon Hayward, he was also asked about the future of George Hill. Quite frankly, in my mind Hill’s future is irrelevant if the Jazz lose out on Hayward, but it was still interesting to hear his take. Here’s what Kyler had to say on the situation surrounding Utah’s free agent point guard:
"He would love to come back and my understanding is they’d like for him to come back. But now you get in an equation if Gordy’s going to leave – if you know Gordy’s going to leave or you feel like Gordy’s going to leave – do you really give $70-80 million to George Hill?I would say, look, that’s probably not the worst investment to make because he makes everything work, but if you’re taking a step back (and take a big step back), so is the consolation prize keep George Hill and Derrick Favors and see how good the rest of the team can be?You know is it time for Rodney Hood? Is this where Dante Exum comes up? How big of a role can Joe Johnson play? You know, maybe that’s the Plan B. But again I don’t think Plan B looks any better in the grand scheme other than. “Hey, we’re going to compete, maybe get home court every year.”"
How’s that for cheery? In other words, from this viewpoint, if Gordon Hayward leaves then investing big money in Hill might just be Utah’s best option in free agency given that he’d likely be one of the more talented and realistic players available. But that still seems like a lot of money to spend on what would likely result in little more than mediocrity.
And the Plan B of simply competing for home court and nothing else isn’t too bright of a future. True, perhaps that would be the case anyway given how unbelievably stacked the Warriors are, but there’s still no questioning that keeping Hayward makes Utah more competitive. And as much as I’d like to believe in guys that Kyler mentioned such as Hood or Exum, I’d feel a lot more comfortable with them developing alongside Hayward rather than trying to step up and fill the void he’d leave.
Hood’s a shooter, not a playmaker like Hayward. Exum is still far too raw and quite honestly I don’t see either being ready to step up and lead a team to great success like Hayward can.
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So the odds may be 60-40 for the time being, but this interview made me feel a little less confident than that. Of course new developments are bound to surface as we get closer to the start of free agency, so hopefully that ever-swinging pendulum will make its way back to the positive side.
Because if not, the Jazz could be looking at a disappointing “Plan B” for the foreseeable future.