The young and talented free agent becomes a restricted free agent this summer.
This year saw him take on the burden of being the Jazz’s number one scoring option, a task that proved challenging for Hayward. It must be said that neither Hayward nor the team thrived under this arrangement, with Hayward shooting career lows in his field goal and three-point percentages this season and Utah finishing last in the Western Conference.
This, however, should not worry anyone. We all knew that Hayward wasn’t a number one option and that Utah was a rebuilding zone this year. Despite his shooting percentages, Hayward proved that he is capable of being a competent scorer and facilitator in the NBA, averaging 16.2 points and 5.2 assists per game this season. If anything, the drop in Hayward’s percentages were to be expected given the increase in volume and difficulty of his shots.
Going into his 5th year in the NBA, Hayward becomes a restricted free agent this summer and will draw attention from teams all around the league. Whether it’s as the fourth option on a contender, a spot up shooter or to simply as a young building block on a rebuilding team, Hayward could probably fit into any rotation in the league and contribute immediately.
Let’s look at some of the spots Hayward might end up:
Given that Luol Deng’s departure is a strong possibility this summer, Cleveland may be looking to fill their starting 3 spot with a young scorer in the form of Hayward. With plenty of cap space available this summer and the number 1 draft pick in hand, Cleveland have a whole host of possibilities available to them. Should they trade their pick and decide to go all in for the post-season success next year, they may look to acquire a proven asset in the form of Hayward. This being said, Cleveland may be reluctant to pay the double figure salary Hayward is likely to command.
Much of the Bulls’ off-season flexibility depends on whether or not they choose to amnesty Carlos Boozer’s contract this summer. Should they do so they will give themselves for more scope to bring in a quality free agent such as Hayward, who could fill many potential roles for Chicago. He could play the 3 alongside Jimmy Butler, giving them a more dynamic option at small forward than Mike Dunleavy Jr., play the 2 alongside Dunleavy, giving the Bulls floor stretching shooting when a healthy Derrick Rose is creating on the drive or he could come off the beach as their sixth man should Taj Gibson be promoted to the starting line-up in Boozer’s place.
Charlotte has become a viable free agency destination of late, with the presence of Al Jefferson and the possibility of play-off basketball being a strong lure for players on the open market. With plenty of cap space available Charlotte may be able to outbid Utah in Hayward’s contract negotiations and are more likely to target Hayward rather than one of the more high profile free agents such as Carmelo Anthony or Lance Stephenson. Hayward could balance out Charlotte’s roster out quite nicely as even though they’ve taken on the identity of a stout defensive team, they’re lacking in the scoring department, possessing the 7th worse offensive rating this season.
The Celtics have a whole host of tradable assets available to them this summer and a roster that is nowhere near what they would like it to be. Even their most valuable player, Rajon Rondo, has been implicated in the Celtics' off-season activity. This has led to their rumoured involvement in almost every trade and free agent around. Hayward though makes real sense for the C’s given his ability to play either the 2 or the 3 spot. Jeff Green’s sizable contract is one that is being actively shopped, while the Celtics also may have to face losing Avery Bradley should someone offer him money they're not willing to match. There’s also Brad Stevens to consider. Stevens coached Hayward during his time at Butler, which included a trip to the NCAA Tournament Finals in 2010. Stevens may relish the chance to bring a former player back into the fold.
As a restricted free agent, it’s most likely that Hayward will end up singing with the Jazz this summer, especially given the fact that there are some far more enticing free agents available should clubs look to spend big. Hayward will only continue to improve in the coming years and so long as it doesn't cost too much to keep in Salt Lake City, there is no reason for the Jazz to let him walk away. With the 5th pick of the draft, Utah will add a valuable piece to their already promising roster and will hope that their young nucleus can grow into a team ready to compete for play-off basketball.