Heading into his seventh year in the league, it could the most important of Utah Jazz forward Gordon Hayward’s career. He has a $16.7 million player option for the 2017-18 season that he could very well decline to opt for free agency. With that in mind, ESPN’s Zach Lowe has hinted that Boston Celtics led by head coach Brad Stevens, who was his former head coach at Butler, could make a serious run at him if he chooses that route.
The Jazz have a ton of guys to pay, and if they down enough beers (just kidding, it’s Utah!), they might convince themselves they have the wing depth to withstand Hayward bolting. His beloved college coach runs a rising team with an easy roadmap to max-cap space — and real interest in Hayward, per several league sources.
The Celtics have the need for another scorer on the floor to help ease the load on Isaiah Thomas and offseason addition Al Horford. Jae Crowder has been a more than serviceable player, but he isn’t nearly as talented as Hayward. His acquisition would make them the biggest challengers in the East to the Cleveland Cavaliers.
That said, the Jazz know how important Hayward is to their future. He is the go-to guy in the offense on a team is built around him with young talent in Rudy Gobert, Derrick Favors, and Rodney Hood. However, keep in mind that Hayward did entertain leaving the team when he was a restricted free agent in the 2014 offseason signing a four-year, $63 million offer sheet with the Charlotte Hornets that the Jazz ultimately matched. What this is all means is that the Jazz are going to have to pony up a lot of money if they hope to have a good chance at keeping their rising star.