It’s tough to get a great read on where exactly the Utah Jazz stand.
They’ve got an undeniably talented group of youngsters who have the potential for excellence. They’re one of four teams which rank top 10 in the NBA in both offensive efficiency and defensive efficiency. And they have a top 10 NBA record.
On the other hand, they sit in the bottom half of the Western Conference playoff standings. They haven’t won a single post-season game since 2010. And they’ve been waging a losing battle against injury for years, which makes it nearly impossible to tell how well their pieces fit together or how good they can be.
The lack of clarity is becoming a serious problem for the small-market organization, as it navigates whether it’s even possible to pay its five when-healthy starters — George Hill, Rodney Hood, Gordon Hayward, Derrick Favors and Rudy Gobert – within the confines of a luxury tax threshold which they have been historically adverse to cross.
Gobert already got his big-money extension this past October – a four-year, $94 million payout that kicks in next season. His fate is secure.
Hill and Favors are each currently eligible for extensions of their own, ones that could leverage Utah’s $13.6 million of available cap space to renegotiate their current salaries as the baseline for it. But neither is likely to happen. Favors is five years younger than Hill and still very much in his prime, but he’s also under a low-value contract through next season and could be the odd man out if there is to be one. Hill is perhaps the more deserving and better long-term fit of the two, but he seems to prefer to hash things out in free agency this summer.
Hood will be eligible for an extension of his own starting this coming July, which would kick in when his rookie-scale contract expires at the end of next season. He’s a solid two-way talent. He won’t be cheap.
And then there’s Hayward, the heart and soul of the franchise, who will become a prized free agent this summer if he declines his $16.7 million player option by his June 29 deadline.
The last time Hayward hit the open market, as a restricted free agent in the summer of 2014, talks with the Jazz broke down to point where he was forced to pursue other options. Utah could have kept him off the market had they negotiated a contract extension the prior October, but Hayward was reportedly seeking a four-year deal valued at $50 million while the Jazz reportedly held firm at $48 million. The hard line ultimately proved costly.
Rather than even attempt to negotiate a new deal that could have extended as long as five years the following July, the Jazz made known its intention to match any offer sheet Hayward signed. He went on to sign a four-year, $63 million max offer sheet with the Charlotte Hornets on July 10, 2014. To make the deal particularly unpleasant for Utah, the Hornets threw in a 15 percent trade kicker and a player option on the final season. They matched anyway.
Nearly three years later, that contract sets Hayward up for one of the league’s most intriguing summer scenarios. Read more…