This last week of Jazz fandom, including today, feels a little bit like I imagine being bipolar would feel like—an exhilarating high (Exum?! We seriously got Exum?!), followed by what may not be the lowest of the lows, but a possibility of some low lows, given that the free agency period has now officially started, and there’s a possibility of a) losing Gordon Hayward, b) offering Gordon Hayward a reasonable contract (or matching one), or c) matching a toxic or ridiculous Gordon Hayward contract. So, let’s break down some of these high highs and low lows for a little bit.
Maybe this’ll be the new LARRY SANDERS!, though with a better ending than what happened with Sanders’ last season. I know it’s been discussed here and all around Jazzland since Thursday, but I still am giddy when I think that we got Dante Exum. AND that we got him at #5 and didn’t have to give up any of our assets to get him. Obviously, hindsight is 20/20, but if the trade had gone through that was being reported—but that was apparently very inaccurate—we’d have essentially given up Derrick Favors, Dante Exum, Alec Burks, Rodney Hood and maybe a future pick for a chance at either Jabari Parker or Andrew Wiggins. That’s a pretty hefty penny, especially since many in the analytics world aren’t convinced that either Parker or Wiggins will be the sort of transcendent player around which a team can build a championship contender.
It’s a little hard to temper both my expectations and excitement for Exum, given that he was #2 on my personal draft board (once more was known about Embiid’s foot injury, at least), but I’m sure he’ll remind us during the season that he really is a 19-year-old kid. At the same time, I’m hoping we see flashes of that speed, of that length, of the potential “it” factor that had so many salivating over him before the draft. It was a really fun night to be a Jazz fan on Thursday night.
Gordon Hayward’s Soon-To-Be Contract
Now this is an area that seems to create a LOT of bipolarity among Jazz fans, and I don’t see a ton of folks in the middle. Maybe they’re there, but it’s just a less vocal group so I don’t see the gray-area fans quite as clearly as those on the different ends of the spectrum. Actually, now that I think about it, it seems like it’s mostly fans who are opposed to matching—or offering—any contract above, say, $11-12 million per year, even though it’s very possible he gets more than that.
It seems like there are two conflicting schools of thought here:
1. The “Andrei Kirilenko slacked after getting a max contract” train of thought. Admittedly, giving Kirilenko a max contract wasn’t entirely necessary at the time, although it was given to placate a do-everything player who complained that others in his draft class were getting max contracts, and he felt he should, too. It’s an understandable position, but not one everybody shared at the time. That contract ended up being an albatross for the team, given Kirilenko’s injury-prone body and his subsequent declining production. Don’t get me wrong: I loved watching AK play, and I loved watching him completely change a game without scoring a single bucket. But it was hard for Jazz fans to watch the AK situation, knowing that he was getting paid max money but wasn’t doing max-money things.
That seems to be a concern some share for Hayward, given that he’s a similar do-everything player who doesn’t excel at one particular skill and who was seemingly upset that others in his draft class got max contracts (Paul George), while he wasn’t offered the same. His body language at times this last season spoke of a frustrated player, so the parallel to Kirilenko continues there, as well. If Hayward is offered a max contract and the Jazz match it, will he be doing max-money things as a player? Or will there be a similar trajectory as AK’s career?
2. The “If anyone offers Hayward more than $12 million per year, we have to let him walk because he’s not worth that” theory. While I can understand that logic in a vacuum—that you should only pay players according to which tier they’re in—there are two other angles to consider: a) what would it cost to replace or nearly replace Hayward’s production if he were to land elsewhere, and b) the cap is going to jump significantly over the next few years, so the Jazz will have more $$ to play with1.
As much as fans seem to be down on Hayward after he shot poorly from the field and from three this last year, his 16/5/5 production would be very difficult to replace. What other players in the league have his unique skill set where he can score, shoot (yes, his previous years were better than last year for reasons discussed here and elsewhere plenty), run the pick-and-roll, pass, rebound, etc. all in one, 6’8’’ Honda-Accord-driving package?
So, what will we learn over these next hours and days? Will we hit a low if Hayward’s offered a max contract by Phoenix? Or Charlotte? Or will we hit a low if the Jazz match?
Where do you stand on Exum? And what kind of contract do you want the Jazz to offer or match for Hayward, if anything?