Gordon Hayward is just like every other NBA free agent whose season ended less than a half-second ago: He doesn’t know what he plans to do next, be it re-sign with the Utah Jazz, leave for greener pastures or even opt out of his contract at all.
Utah Jazz forward Gordon Hayward said Tuesday he hasn’t thought about whether he will opt out of his contract to become an unrestricted free agent and will take some time off to enjoy time with his family before dealing with the “next chapter.”
“It’s hard to think about right now, just because of the season we’ve had and everything we’ve gone through,” he said at his end-of-season availability. “Today it still feels like you’re looking toward the next game, looking toward the next opponent. That’s obviously over. But it’s hard to shut that off right away.”
Head coach Quin Snyder, per ESPN.com, made it clear the Jazz wish to keep Hayward. George Hill said he believes his teammate’s “heart” is in Utah. This all bodes well for the Jazz fans who cheered him out of Vivint Smart Home Arena following the team’s Game 4 loss and second-round series sweep at the hands of the Golden State Warriors.
Though Hayward says he hasn’t decided whether he’ll opt out, he’s definitely going to opt out. He’s slated to make a little over $16.7 million next season. Become a free agent, and a max deal will pay him roughly $30.3 million in Year 1, based off a $101 million salary cap—almost double what he’d make by opting in.
The only way Hayward doesn’t hit the open market is if he makes an All-NBA team. That would qualify him for the Designated Player Extension—a five-year deal, tacked on to his current contract, that pays him more than $200 million. He would need to opt in for that to take effect, which is probably why he’s waiting to decide what he’ll do.
Assuming he doesn’t make an All-NBA team, the Jazz are still the favorites to sign him. And, really, they have only one competitor: The Boston Celtics, who are coached by Hayward’s college head honcho, Brad Stevens. But while Hayward may get the itch to play somewhere, the fifth year the Jazz can offer looms big. It’s security he won’t get anywhere else, and it’s not like he’d be latching on to a team still stuck in the throes of a rebuild. Unless they’re unwilling to pay him market value, which will be a max deal, the Jazz shouldn’t have to worry too much about Hayward bolting for a better situation.