The Bipolarity of Jazz Fandom

July 1st, 2014 | by Laura Thompson
Last year's exhilarating draft pick posing with this year's. Photo by Jesse. D. Garrabrant - NBAE via Getty Images

Last year’s exhilarating draft pick posing with this year’s. Photo by Jesse. D. Garrabrant – NBAE via Getty Images

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.

DANTE EXUM!

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?

Laura Thompson

Laura Thompson

I grew up in California, but have been a Jazz fan pretty much since I was in diapers; I went to Karl Malone's basketball camp when I was 11 and I flew up to Utah in 1997 to go to Game 3 of the Finals. After graduating from BYU in 2008, I moved back to California to work in Marketing and have been doing that for the last five years. My favorite things in life are the Utah Jazz, basketball, food (whether cooking or consumption of), reading, church, black Labs, and the beach (though hopefully not in that order).
Laura Thompson

19 Comments

  1. Dave says:

    I for one am in the 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.

    • Clint Applegarth says:

      You have to match Hayward at any costs. What will Utah do with that money if they don’t? O make another stupid money deal for trash like they did with the Golden State players? That is completely stupid. Lets start building for the future around Hayward, Favors, Exum, Burke, and Burks. Lets not pull another stupid move and let a great SG/SF walk like we did with Wes Mathews who is killing it in Portland. I bet Utah wishes they had that one back.

  2. LKA says:

    At this point I would say “match”. With a much better coach and others around him that are better I think he will become a better player. I think Burks and Hayward were the two players that got screwed by Corbin the most with his “Vet-Idos”.. With the new additions of Snyder and Exum add Jimmer and fill the seats everygame.

  3. LKA says:

    By the way Laura in the picture it looks like Burke is Exums little brother..

  4. Paul Johnson says:

    Does anyone else think that Exum looks like he could be Ronnie Price’s little brother?

  5. zach says:

    If you think he may be worth 12 million, but not 14.5 million then it might be splitting hairs. Hayward is not Paul George, aka a max player, but it doesnt mean the Jazz should not match a max contract. Those numbers are hard to replace, and I expect the assists to decrease next year and the FG% to increase as he holds the ball less and gives it up more to a second year Trey and the new Exum. If next year he could be a 20/5.4/4 guy with all his intangibles noted above, and the Jazz cannot get anyone to come in and play the Jazz have to match a max contract. The thing people are missing is the opportunity cost. You can probably bring over Deng/Ariza at 8-11mil, or Granger/Butler at around 5, but they are much older and do not have the upside that Hayward has, and it would be hard to get a Hayward-type player to come the Jazz without overpaying them 2-3 mil per year. The Jazz have to spend the money to reach minimum payroll. Unless they want to throw away another season to get draft picks like last year, then they have to match and hope this team can come together. This is all barring a LeBron/Carmelo tandem teaming up in Utah. Add Hawes/Gortat at center, a 3&D Sefalosha-type, and a veteran Marv Willimas/Caron Butler/Danny Granger along with the current team the Jazz are a fringe playoff team. Matching Hayward will show if the team is ready to move fwd with the team, or continue to rebuild.

    • LKA says:

      I really think Granger is done.

    • Jake says:

      I tend to agree with you Zach. I think the split is because one camp of Jazz fans believe that Hayward has filled his potential and that what we saw last year is pretty much what we’ll get moving forward. The second camp believes that Hayward is young, had a bad coach that hindered his development and that he hasn’t yet reached his ceiling.

      I’m in the latter camp. All indications are that he’s an above average shooter and that with new and improved offensive players around him and appropriate (for the team makeup) offensive scheme he can thrive. I think he can average the 20/5/4.5 that you suggested. I also think his defense improves along with the rest of the team. He’s too valuable to let walk over a “measly” 2 million.

      The last 4 years will have felt like a waste to me if we let him walk. I think we’ve got the building blocks now. Let’s develop and start competing for deep playoff runs and then title runs. Lock in our talent now and move forward. I’m tired of waiting for “our savior” from free agency. It’s not going to happen. The pieces are finally in place and now we (hopefully) have the right coaching staff to extract every ones potential.

      It’s a risk either way, but I’d take my chances with Hayward living up to his contract. That’s just the reality of todays NBA. Have you seen some of the contracts in free agency so far? Most players are getting overpaid.

      • Well-said. How I feel exactly.

        I wonder how loyal and motivated AK felt after the fans whined and complained about his contract every article?

        I’m excited about Dante (who wouldn’t be?) but he hasn’t even been on an NBA court yet (can you say excited to watch Summer League!?!) Even if Dante pans out as a bonafide all-star, you need a great backcourt to facilitate.

  6. Clint Johnson says:

    Love this, Laura! My take on Exum and Hayward:

    Exum: I’m a hopeful skeptic. After the Jazz selected him, I went back and watched every publicly available full game of his once again, as well as some college games of Derrick Rose and John Wall, who I think are reasonable comps. Exum’s tall and long with incredible acceleration, so he’ll be good attacking the hoop and finishing at odd angles. He’s also a truly good passer with nice court vision. That said, he doesn’t really impact the game in any other way right now, and he’s less explosive, weaker, and a less deft ball-handler than either Wall or Rose. I question how much of that can be taught. I know I’m in the minority, but I would have taken Marcus Smart. His game has more strong facets, I think he’s more likely to be the better overall player, and he would have been a much better cultural infusion in the push to be defense-first. But Exum has a chance to be very good, and truly elite in very specific ways. He could also bust. I don’t think any of us, and perhaps even the Jazz brain-trust, has enough information to make a confident projection at this point.

    Hayward: I think he’s a better player than he showed in his contract year, especially when allowed to be a second or third offensive option. (I actually believe the offense would improve with Burks, Kanter, or even Favors as a first option Hayward could play off of.) I match what he’s offered (which I don’t think will be the max, even from Boston or Phoenix), trusting even if it’s slightly overpaying, you can trade such a good player on that contract if you really need to free the cap room. In the unlikely event the team doesn’t match and Hayward leaves, I’ll be disappointed but not devastated. There is too much else to like about the makeup of the team.

    Overall, I’m definitely more optimistic than pessimistic.

  7. Spencer says:

    Laura,

    Here is my take:

    Exum: For the first time in the history of the Jazz franchise there is a chance we have a wing who could be a transcendent player. That is significant. Wings are who the NBA is built for, especially fast ones. He is instantly the most marketable face and personality on the team. Check out his footlocker commercials. I believe there is a lot of value to that. Today it is possible to have a face of the NBA in Utah just like OKC. The key word in all of that is chance. There is a chance we have that player. The great news is we know we have the personality, and character. It sounds like we have the work ethic. I’ll take that risk. Also, I think Exum has as much defensive potential as offensive. That is also a big deal. If Exum can play point guard he could physically dominate his position the way Howard, Griffin, Lebron, Westbrook do theirs. That is a HUGE deal. Wiggins, Embiid and Gordon also have that potential to physically dominate, but they all have questions as well.

    Since Stockton left we have made a habit of taking the lower ceiling, safer pick. It has consistently given us the second best option available. Example:

    Williams-left Chris Paul
    Hayward-Paul George
    Kanter-Valenciunas
    Burks-Leonard (This may be the exception, but in hindsite Leonard’s fit and skillset would be perfect for our team.)
    Burk-MCW

    The result has been lots of really nice pieces, but nobody that could transcend. I think Exum has a fairly high floor (solid rotation player who presents miss-matches) and that great ceiling. Just what we needed. It was high-time we swung for the fences.

    Hayward

    I believe that we will see a completely different result this year. It will become pretty clear pretty quickly that Corbin did not utilize his players very effectively esp Gordon. Also, the pressure will be gone. If I am Hayward, I take a contract in the same range as I was looking for last year 50-55mil. with it front-loaded. This year we have the cap space and every year following we will need more. Jazz fans will love him for it int he future. That will keep the pressure off.

    Boston is does not have the cap space to offer a max deal. Phoenix is in the same situation as we are. If I am Lindsey I tell Phoenix. If you offer a max deal for Gordon we match AND we offer a max for Blesdoe. If neither one of us offer the max and we both return our players at a better value. Phoenix can front-load a contract just like us for Bledsoe and everyone is happy, especially in a few years when we are both adding or developing and paying additional pieces to great teams for the next decade.

    Cleveland could throw a fly in the ointment here. Hopefully Hayward does not allow that to happen.

    By the way, a max from another team is much less than a max we could offer. The difference is something like 27 million.

    • Spencer says:

      Personal update. The difference is $15 million and Cleveland is screwing things up! They are bringing him in and giving a max offer per reports. ugh! They are like the kid who always gets all the luck and just screws everything up and can’t play.

    • Clint Johnson says:

      I would take Burke over MCW any day. He won rookie of the year playing an unsustainable and inefficient style of ball for one of the worst teams in NBA history. If the Sixers keep trotting out a cobbled together D-League team like last year and letting MCW play fast and sloppy, they just might develop a player who no truly good, disciplined team can use. I’ll take Trey’s 3 to 1 assist to turnover ratio and vastly superior shooting mechanics to MCW’s 16.9 TO% and sub-JLIII shooting.

  8. Mewko says:

    I want the Jazz to offer Hayward 4 yrs/46 million, and I think they will. Hayward won’t take that offer, Charlotte will give him 4 yrs/52 million. Hayward will bite the bullet, and the Jazz will match. By the time Hayward and Favors’ contracts are up, it’ll be time to extend Exum. Hayward and Favors will take paycuts, to 8-10 million/yr. Exum will get the max contract and be well worth it.

    My take on Exum: He’s like Alec Burks with more speed, vertical, and courtvision. He’s still raw right now, so Alec will start at the 2, Exum gets 20 minutes off the bench, 8 pts 3.5 Assists. In 2016-17 Exum will start with Trey, Alec gets 28-30 minutes per game in the 2nd unit.
    Exum’s best statistical season of his career will be: 25 PPG 8 APG 7 RPG 2 SPG
    The Year the Jazz win a championship Exum will average: 23 PPG 6 APG 5 RPG 2 SPG

    • Clint Johnson says:

      Exum is not as explosive as Burks. He showed a lower max vertical at the combine and the difference on the court when they play is even greater. He’s lightning fast and he really is a good passer, but he doesn’t match Burks’ ability to get off the ground.

    • JP says:

      Ummm…do you live in Colorado?

  9. JP says:

    I’m one of the “silent” on-the-fence folks when it comes to Hayward. Sure, I hope the Jazz keep him, but I certainly don’t think he’s worth a max contract (think AK). Hayward is soooo inconsistent; he can’t be relied on to score or close out a game (or not throw the ball away) when needed, which is what you expect your MAX contract player to be able to do. You never know which Hayward will show up to a game. Plus his shooting has actually declined since his rookie year and was pretty mediocre this past season. What’s up with that? There are a lot of FAs that are as good or better. If the Cavs think he’s worth $15M, then I say buh-bye. However, over the past several years Jazz management has been known to make some dumb decisions (AK max contract, by-passing George, Leonard (and taking Hayward! Whaaa?), and Parsons in the draft, not trying harder to keep Wesley Mathews, drafting Morris Almond, letting Jefferson and Millsap walk with nothing in return, letting Millsap walk, not offering Demare Carroll a contract and letting him walk, accepting Biedrins in a trade for $9M (I’d sit on the bench for a lot less), etc.) so I’m not at all confident they’ll make the right one here.

    I’m lukewarm on Exum. He played no NCAA ball, and is a 19-year old kid who played in Australia. Big deal. Anyone who’s decent will look like a superstar when playing against poor players. Frankly, I think it’s all a lot of hype. He’s going to have a very rude awakening once he starts playing NBA ball. I don’t think he’ll bust, but I also don’t think he’ll be the Jazz savior either. I hope I’m wrong but it will take a few years for it to pan out. Meanwhile, I’m cautiously optimistic. Good thing there’s NFL and NHL to watch during another crappy Jazz season.

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