Gordon Hayward has been with the Utah Jazz his whole career. But now a split might lie in the road ahead. With free agency looming this 2017, both Hayward and the team have some decisions to make.
The respectable 23-16 record the Jazz now hold isn’t telling of a bigger story. The Jazz have been mired in a bit of a rebuild for the last several years. Now, they’re good, but “good” is never enough for teams. Only “great” is ever remembered. Could the Utah Jazz shoot for that level now? Or is retooling in short order to break that ceiling?
Hayward and Gobert – The Way Forward
Most fans knew that Gordon Hayward could be capable of something astounding a few years ago. In a conference that’s awfully vocal about Kawhi Leonard and Kevin Durant, Hayward has managed to also stand out among the better forwards. No, it looks like he’s not going to make the All Star Game, outvoted by the likes of Anthony Davis. But teams are getting ready to pounce if Salt Lake City lets him walk.
The 26-year-old is averaging 22.0 points, 5.8 rebounds, and 3.5 assists on a Western Playoff team. He helped the team to win over the Thunder, Spurs, and Rockets, in the first half of the season. Plus, they’ve gained a reputation as the League’s peskiest defense. They rank first in that department.
Part of that reason is also Gobert, who’s been one heck of a treasure find for the Utah Jazz. At just 24, he’s averaging a double-double at 12.3 points and 12.2 rebounds per game. But most impressive, is his 2.6 blocks a game. Defensive Player of the Year discussions must include Gobert. And if one has to be strict about the Utah Jazz hitting their limit- it hasn’t happened yet.
Breaking the Ceiling
“Utah is counting on the combustion effect of mixing really good players,” Zach Lowe of ESPN writes. The leap of guys like Derrick Favors to the next level would be good. But will it be enough? Hayward has expressed frustration that it’s taken this long to elbow their way into WCF discussions, but no one will even consider them beyond the second round.
Should they pull the trigger on a drastic move? Maybe not right away. The best move the Jazz could make is re-sign Hayward. Convince him that another year or two, with the right trades or picks, will put them at competitive level. The Toronto Raptors were able to do it. The Pacers too, before that bad George injury. Heck, it’s been the Spurs model for years: develop your own, keep them on the rise until they’re jabbing with the best of the West.
“We’re not scared of anyone,” Gobert says. They’re one of only four teams ranking in the Top 10 for both offense and defense. Question is, will the Jazz be anyone to fear of?