Mar 17, 2014; Houston, TX, USA; Utah Jazz guard Gordon Hayward (20) dunks the ball during the first quarter as Houston Rockets forward Terrence Jones (6) defends at Toyota Center. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

Get Behind Gordon Hayward: Poised To Join The Elite

What is it about new toys? At this point in his career Gordon Hayward is a familiar face on billboards and buildings around northern Utah. He just got paid and for some strange reason many Utah Jazz fans don’t like this fact, this facet of the business that most of us realized was pending and suspected might go the distance. And it did, right to the dreaded max salary match end.

I made the call in that tweet two years ago. It’s become a vicious cycle in Jazzland: Root for the new blood, scorn the veterans. And now that he’s off of his rookie deal Hayward is officially a vet.

Some turned on Hayward once his price rose above whatever arbitrary figure they had in their mind. “He’s only worth [insert nine-figure-per-year number], not a MAX!” as if he was somehow forcing them to eat from the McDonald’s value menu for the next three-plus years himself.

Any asset is worth however much someone will pay for it. It’s the same free market system many of these same people will fight tooth and nail for in other circumstances when their own money is on the line. And it’s not as if paying Hayward is breaking or hindering the Jazz in their endeavor to build a contender.

When Chandler Parsons, a player many Jazz fans wanted instead of Hayward because “he’ll be cheaper,” got paid $15 million per year I thought, “Phew! Now folks will back off Hayward a bit.” Nope. The venomous efforts redoubled, oddly enough.

When Gordon Hayward was announced as a summer workout member of Team USA — far from his first stint for America’s FIBA team — I thought, “Okay, now folks will chill.” Wrong again. The reaction was instead “Hayward is OVERPAID. He has no business on Team USA!” It’s enough to make some want to just sigh and give up on the silliness.

Hayward’s contract, in relative terms, won’t be hamstringing the Jazz’s ability to continue moving in the right direction. The length of the contract keeps the Jazz from having to sweat about retaining the cream of the next free agent crop waiting in the wings.

Plus, the NBA salary cap is projected to rise significantly next season, then expected to explode with the new TV deal in 2016. Relatively speaking, by that time Hayward’s contract won’t even be a max anymore as that number will rise.

We all knew Dennis Lindsey was going to match any offer, even up to a max. Jazz brass said so all along, so why the “Oh!” faces and veins popping out of foreheads? He wanted to get paid and brass obliged by letting him take the lead last season. It was always a gamble.

Some analysts claim the Charlotte Hornets would have been the better fit for Hayward, and many Jazz fans would have been happy to oblige as armchair GMs. Certainly, Michael Jordan was ready to up the ante until the pot was full. But Quin Snyder’s faster, spread offense feels like a fit that could better utilize the former Bulldog.

We’ve already seen Hayward next to Al Jefferson, know how he would have to play with the slower, halfcourt-centered big man. Hayward may not be a number one option, and just because he’s now getting paid like one doesn’t mean he would have been one in Charlotte, nor has to be in Utah.

Statistically, Gordon Hayward was fantastic in every area except overall field goal percentage and three point percentage last year. Like, really good. He became the first Jazz player in the Utah era to average 16 points, 5 rebounds and 5 assists in a season, a feat that typically less than a handful of players pull off each year, at most.

And to be perfectly frank, .453 from two isn’t that bad for a perimeter player, especially considering how often Hayward seemed to take long twos. Really, his three point percentage is what dragged down his overall percentage of .413. For a perimeter player, 45% overall is quite acceptable and should be attainable for Hayward.

Shot volume is a legitimate concern, but partway through the 2013-14 season in a postgame presser a reporter noted that Hayward seemed to have been playing better of late and asked him why. Consulting the game logs from the season you can see why Gordon answered that he’d been taking too many shots and needed to concentrate on facilitating more, which he did.

The other, last 10 players to accomplish 16/5/5 in a season are: Reigning Rookie of the Year Michael Carter-Williams, LeBron James, Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, Kobe Bryant, Tyreke Evans, Andre Iguodala, Stephen Jackson, Dwyane Wade and Chris Paul. That’s pretty stout company, with three MVPs, all All-Stars with the exceptions of Jackson, Carter-Williams and Evans, who is a former Rookie of the Year.  Seriously, who would want to run off a player like that?

Despite underwhelming shooting percentages, Hayward still managed to lead the Jazz in scoring, largely due to his 4.9 trips to the free throw line per game where he hit nearly 82% of his attempts. Last season for the Jazz, Hayward:

• Led in scoring at 16.2 PPG

• Led in minutes played, despite missing five games, with 2,800, or 36.4 MPG

• Led in steals per game with 1.4

• Led in free throw attempts at 4.9 per game

• Was second in assists to only Trey Burke at 5.2 per game (to only 2.8 turnovers)

• Was second in free throw percent (minimum 15 MPG) at .816

• Was third in rebounds per game with 5.1 (tied with Marvin Williams)

• Was fourth in blocks per game with 0.5 (tied with Marvin Williams and Enes Kanter)

Some have said that in order to make the contract worth it Hayward will have to average 20 points, 6 rebounds and 6 assists. While that would be nice, it’s hardly a fair qualifier and only sets him up for failure should he not reach the marks. The list of players who have averaged such high marks is occupied almost solely by Hall of Famers. Only 19 players have ever done it, so to say Hayward must borders on delusion. And if he does happen to, well then you’ve got a bona fide star on your hands, Utah.

Within context, realizing that Gordon Hayward came two buckets, an assist and a rebound shy per game of that compilation of splendor and all-timers makes the max contract much more palatable, the potential for his ceiling that much higher. He’s only a little over halfway to the typical statistical peak of an NBA player, currently, at 8,137 NBA minutes played, and should be reaching it right around the time his current contract is up.

In Quin Snyder’s system Hayward will likely take less shots, as well as more efficient ones, with more pick-and-rolls from the ball handlers if a quick, open look isn’t there in what’s being described early on as a faster-paced offense that should suit Hayward’s game well. And let’s not forget what Quin Snyder did for DeMarre Carroll’s shooting percentage last year in Atlanta, coaching him to a career high field goal percent on a career high attempts.

With new dynamic players and ever-improving young talent to share the load — not to mention losing the distraction of testing a player in a contract year — and defenses no longer able to key in on Hayward, he should find the basket a little more easily next season, find passing and driving lanes even more readily.

Let’s not be so quick to kick Gordon Hayward to the curb. He’ll likely make you eat those discouraging words as he joins the elite of the NBA.

Tags: DeMarre Carroll Gordon Hayward Quin Snyder Utah Jazz

  • Olivier Batiste

    Maybe people are not disconcerted by his overall talent in basketball. Maybe some people just believe that the attitude was unworthy : the Jazz paid him for four years, gave him the opportunity to shine in NBA, showed him confidence offering him a new contract. And what did the clever boy do ? He just showed to the whole world that he doesn’t care about all this, that money is much more important to him than the rest. I think that is something people do not understand because when you earn 10 or 12 m$ a year in a country where 20% of the youth is really poor, crying for 4m$/year more seems arrogant or living in cloud-cuckoo land. It’s not about sports (i think), but about ethic.

    • Clint Peterson

      I can see your point and understand why some would feel such a disconnect. To counter, I would offer that to Hayward, it might not be about a few more million so much as the psychological effect of knowing he that he is a max player. I suspect we shall see.

      • Olivier Batiste

        Hope you’re right.
        NBA players, even if they work hard to earn their status, are privileged persons.
        Now the things are done, due to MJ sense of marketing, and Gordon is a max. contract player. With a new headcoach, with new talented partners on the court (Hood & Exum are expected to be good), maybe that he and others (I think about Enes, Derrick, Alec & even Rudy, Jeremy, etc) will take a step forward. But most of the fans will focus on G.H : does he really deserve this status. Only time will tell ;)

        • Dart Vade

          wow you indignant piece of sh*t. The only privileged person anywhere near here is you. Im trying to remember how many kids grew up in a ghetto playing basketball with only one parent, suffering abuses and malnourishment, not being able to purchase the most basic necesities, having inproper housing or neing homeless….Im trying to remeber who has ever called those people privileged? Maybe if you weren’t such a slouch and apparent narcissist you might have a few friends and you wouldn’t feel so alone, Im sure your elitist attitude makes them come a running? wow

          • Olivier Batiste

            There is an excellent article about all this in the NYT, written by Seth Stephens-Davidowitz on the 2nd of November 2013, that reveals that all your arguments are not true no more. I tried to link it to you so that you can read it, but it doesn’t work. If you show some interest in our discussion please read it. Its tittle is “In NBA, ZIP Code Matters”. There you’ll see that ghetto youth are not NBA providers no more. Hope it will open your eyes.

      • Imagine12

        Well he better be able to stand up to the pressure because you want to get max money than you better play and act like a max player.

    • Mike

      And you if you were in the same situation would take less – I’m sure – lay off the kid and get behind him or move on – this article is spot on.

      • Olivier Batiste

        I did not intend to speak about me but if you ask I’ll tell.
        I have decided to earn less money in order to consume less but better, create things, read books, meet people, think. These things are much more important to me than money. I do not ask other people to do the same but when I see such behaviors (as I tried to describe above) I just give my opinion. I’ll always prefer players who show respect and loyalty to their team.

        • Mike

          I just bet you are

        • Dart Vade

          yet you cant give one example of anyone that has actually done that in his situation. That kinds proves the point right there, that you’re just acting self righteous and are a “better” person than him or the rest. Karl Malone never did that, so that should be good enough for hayward

          • Olivier Batiste

            One thing is sure you deserve your alias fits you : such anger and hatred. I thought we were civilized persons here, talking about themes that interest us. Mike asked me a question and I answered that’s all. The rest is due to your endless imagination. We’re not speaking about who’s a better person, we’re speaking about values in sports and life. I’ll just give you one example that took place in a small soccer elite club in France. A young player who started his career as a goalkeeper (and was suspected to become an international player one day) played several year for the team (TFC, small market like Utah in Nba). He was good enough to make the people curious about him. Seeing that his first contract was ending the owner/manager of the club proposed him a new contract (amounts of cash had increased) in order to keep him aboard. But the kid, listening to his agent, wanted more. He refused to sign, waiting to have better offers on the season that was coming. What do you think the manager did ? He putted the player in the reserve team or on the bench for the whole season showing him that he had paid him large amounts of money for 3 or 4 years, that he had given him the opportunity to show himself on the elite of soccer, so that he did not tolerate such a behavior. What happened next ? The value of the player went down, the other teams understood that he was acting like a diva. Where is he now ? Still in the reserve team, negociating with semi-amateur’s team to pursue his career. These two stories (Ahamada – Hayward) are quite similar, I found the TFC owner’s attitude really admirable : he does not tolerate that a kid, whatever is his talent, do not understand that ethic is more important than money. How many kids from France, coming from the ghetto, earn such amounts of money ? Only a few chosen ones, who most of the time become products of mass consumption. For my part, and I suppose I have the right to think so, if they really remember where they come from they should be much more aware of their priviledged status.

          • Dart Vade

            your a blowhard and im sure a real hit at parties and no not the wedding crashing yo normally do. Your a lonely and empty person good luck with that and heck my name is fitting and I can be all the things you say but at the end of teh day people actually like me and dont roll their eyes when they see me bc they think oh god there he is about to ramble on about whatever thing he is offended by today on his soapbox. Privileged is the only thing you talk about bc you obviously come from it and the jealousy you wreak is really sad and pathetic, yo dont work for A-Rod do you? Grow up a little stop judging other people who are way more successful than you and go get a few friends on craigs list I think they will even accept you.

          • Imagine12

            Karl Malone was underpaid most of his career. I think he got max in his finally contract and Karl Malone WAS a max player and a HOF. Karl took less money to try for a ring. Dirk just took less money and Lebron didn’t take max money when he went to Miami. I would say Favors took less money because he wanted to stay in Utah. He could have gone on the market and made more money. Some Jazz fans will defend the Jazz organization even when their facts don’t match the reality of the situation. Hayward is getting paid max money and he hasn’t earned it. He is going to need to take two giant steps forward to even come close to earning his paycheck.

        • Mike

          YOu are full of bovine male excreta

    • polljc

      I would argue he was underpaid on his first contract but many nay-Sayers will spout that he was an unproven commodity and Jazz made a smart investment. Well it works both ways, doesn’t it. If you wanna be real, blame the Jazz for balking on Hayward’s $52 million proposal last year.

      • Olivier Batiste

        Do you really mean it ? $52m is not enough to play basketball?

  • sgallen

    Who exactly is going to take the pressure off Hayward? It’s basically the same team as last year. He may play better (I hope for his sake he does) but I wouldn’t expect any great strides.

    • Olivier Batiste

      I see some players who can score in the team : Burke, Burks, Kanter, Hood maybe Exum from time to time. In a atarting five like this one -Burke-Burks-Hayward-Kanter-Favors- I hope that Snyder will give the 1st shots to Kanter, Burks and Hayward. But I really don’t know what will be the starting lineup.

    • Clint Peterson

      You’re operating under the assumption of the old system and last season’s parameters. Last year it was “Here, Gordon, it’s your ball and your team. Let’s see what you can do.” Snyder’s system is completely different, will concentrate on pick-and-roll after looking for an early, easy look. The ball will be in Hayward’s hands a lot less.

      Incidentally, Hayward is much better shooting from a spot up. Last year he took mostly contested shots off the dribble. That won’t happen under Snyder.

  • Imagine12

    The author of this article is criticizing Jazz fans for being fiscally responsible because we see the whole picture. The Jazz always seem to over pay for players Ostertag/AK etc. If the Jazz front office thought Hayward was a Max player than why didn’t they give him what he wanted to begin with, which was less than what he got. Then you tell the whole world you will match a max deal and so a team calls your bluff and now you have to overpay the guy because you opened your mouth and essential set the price. It is as though the Jazz bid against against themselves. Hayward’s performance has something to do with the outrage too. Max deals should be earned and not just given to a player because a player has potential. Nor do people feel it is a great precedent to set, rewarding players who have declining stats. Jazz mismanaged the situation from the beginning and whether it has future negative ramifications is a matter of personal opinion at this point. However, the price for our other young players just went up.

    • Clint Peterson

      It’s not the fan’s responsibility to manage their favorite team’s money. I don’t imagine your finances are debated in a public forum.

      There will be little or no negative repercussions to what the Jazz paid Hayward. Another part of the picture you’re not seeing, aside from the various fiscal points made already, is that when Hayward’s contract expires so does the current CBA. If it’s as bad you worry, there will likely be yet another amnesty provision available.

      When the Jazz overpaid AK and Ostertag they also limited their ability to add pieces to contending teams. This Jazz team is a Gordon Hayward contract length away from merely competing for the bottom of the West playoffs. The ramifications of keeping your best player happy short term are far less than those situations. This contract is half the length of those on a team still rebuilding and developing.