The Utah Jazz may be able to soften the blow of Gordon Hayward’s departure as discussions of a sign-and-trade that would bring Jae Crowder to Utah are in the works.
There’s several reasons to feel disappointed and hurt by Gordon Hayward’s decision to spurn the Utah Jazz for the Boston Celtics, many of which have been touched on here at The J Notes several times already. However, perhaps one of the most devastating is that Hayward, the All-Star that had been groomed and developed for seven years in Utah, will leave the Jazz with absolutely nothing in return and with much of the free agent market already dried up.
Recent reports have surfaced that the Utah Jazz are now seeking to do a sign-and-trade with Boston that essentially would allow the Jazz to exchange Hayward, who’s already agreed to join the Celtics, for one of their players. This makes sense for Boston because they need to clear space in order to ink Gordon to a max contract and it was announced on Wednesday that they’re shopping Marcus Smart, Avery Bradley and Jae Crowder anyway.
It makes sense for the Utah Jazz, because, well, getting at least something in return would be better than nothing. And if recent reports are to be believed, the guy that Utah has their eye on the most is Jae Crowder.
This would also be an incredible get for the Jazz given that Crowder plays the same position as Hayward, is an extremely versatile player who would fit well with the Jazz, is quite frankly better than anyone the Jazz can realistically pick up in free agency and is on one of the most friendly contracts in the league.
He is under contract through the 2019-20 season and set to make right around $7 million on average in each of the upcoming three seasons. Although that would be a fortune to most folks, that’s essentially pennies in the current NBA landscape. But certainly Crowder has proven himself to be worth much more than his comparatively meager contract.
Last season he averaged just shy of 14 points per game on 46.3 percent shooting from the field and a vastly improved 39.8 percent from deep (which ironically is the EXACT same percentage that Hayward shot from beyond the arc, but Crowder did it on slightly more attempts per game). Crowder also added 5.8 rebounds per game, solidifying his reputation as an energy and hustle guy.
Don’t get me wrong, he wouldn’t replace Hayward by any means, but he would certainly help fill the void better than most and at a more economical rate. Not to mention, his friendly contract would likely allow the Jazz to add another player beyond him, further helping them to replace Hayward by committee, so to speak.
However, adding Crowder is still going to be far from easy. First and foremost, the Jazz have essentially no leverage whatsoever given that Hayward has already committed to the Celtics and thus Boston would likely be better off trying to trade Crowder for something in return, such as a future draft pick that won’t add on to their payroll.
Furthermore, Tony Jones of the Salt Lake Tribune was the first to report the sign-and-trade possibility and he originally made it clear that such a move taking place was dependent on Hayward pushing for it to happen. That may have seemed hard to accomplish to some, but quite possibly because of the fiasco that occurred regarding Hayward’s decision, it was later reported that Hayward and his agent have agreed to help facilitate such a move.
At the risk of getting overly optimistic, this could mean very good news for Jazz fans. Not, “Gordon Hayward changed his mind and rejoined the Jazz” kind of good news, but all things considered, great news nonetheless.
Aside from what Crowder brings to the court, he could be an excellent fit for the Jazz for a number of reasons. First of all, earlier last season he was very vocal about being rubbed the wrong way when Boston fans were cheering for Hayward (Crowder’s presumed and now actual replacement). You can bet he has a massive chip on his shoulder now against Hayward and the C’s as a whole, so what better team to join than one already full of guys who are bitter towards the same guy/team?!
Just imagine with me for a second a Jazz-Celtics match-up featuring the duo of Jae Crowder, who would be matched up directly against Hayward, and Rudy Gobert, who would have his back at the rim, out for revenge against the guy that replaced/betrayed them. That’s just too entertaining of a story line for me to want to pass up!
Beyond that, interestingly enough, Jae Crowder’s dad played for the Utah Jazz during the 1991-1992 season and in what turned out to be a pretty cool story, a Jazz PR representative gave a pair of Corey Crowder’s shoes that had remained in Utah to his son Jae. That would obviously lead one to think that Crowder would certainly have good feelings towards Utah and be at least in some ways content with joining their ranks.
So there’s definitely some positive momentum in terms of Crowder coming to the Jazz, though it’s far from a done deal. As I mentioned, the Jazz have little leverage in the matter and Boston may very well demand that Utah include an additional asset to acquire him such as the non-guaranteed contract of Boris Diaw or a future draft pick, because let’s face it, they already know they’re getting Hayward so they won’t feel obligated to do a sign-and-trade for nothing.
Still, the fact that these discussions are taking place, that Hayward and his agent are willing to facilitate such a move and that Crowder could very well be a realistic fit in Utah all bode well.
One thing that’s certain is that the Jazz still have moves to make if they hope to remain truly competitive in what has become an extremely crowded Western Conference and if landing Jae Crowder ended up being one of their next offseason transactions, Jazz fans should be extremely pleased considering the circumstances.