The circus that is NBA free agency is about to start, and while there is a host of talented players looking for new homes, the prize of the free agent class undoubtedly is Gordon Hayward.
The Utah Jazz forward is coming off his best season in the NBA and will have max contract offers from multiple teams. The 27-year-old swingman averaged 21.9 points per game while shooting 47 percent from the field and knocking down 39 percent of his 3-point field-goal attempts last season.
While the Jazz can offer Hayward the most money, he will be receiving calls from a number of teams hoping he can take them to the next level.
With that being said, here’s a look at the best potential landing spots for the free agent star.
Much has been made about Hayward’s potential reunion with his college head coach, Brad Stevens. But the C’s have much more to offer the star forward than coaching familiarity and a four-year contract worth somewhere around $127 million. The Celtics have a superstar point guard in Isaiah Thomas, a solid post player in Al Horford, a budding young star in Jaylen Brown and recent No. 3 overall draft pick Jayson Tatum. Boston is coming off a season in which it locked up the top spot in the Eastern Conference before being bulldozed by the Cleveland Cavaliers in the Eastern Conference finals. Hayward would give the Celtics a much-needed scoring option alongside Thomas and make the C’s roster one that can contend with the Cavs in the East. And there’s always the possibility that Danny Ainge will add another star along with Hayward to make Boston the conference favorites.
Pat Riley and the Heat will get the first crack at signing the star forward when they meet with him Saturday on the first official day of NBA free agency. The Heat had a brutal start to the 2016-17 season, but coach Erik Spoelstra did a phenomenal job turning the team around and getting them to the brink of a playoff berth. The Heat have the weather, the Eastern Conference and Riley to lure Hayward away from the Jazz and Celtics. Miami is a star player away from being a serious contender in the East, and pairing Hayward with Hassan Whiteside, Goran Dragic and potentially Dion Waiters (if he re-signs) would make them a huge threat to the Cavs and Celtics.
The Jazz can offer Hayward the most money, and really, that’s about it. Hayward’s ascension to star vaulted the Jazz into the upper echelon in the Western Conference, and his exit will put them into a free fall. They still will have a top-five center in Rudy Gobert and a young shooter in Rodney Hood, but the Jazz need Hayward to contend in the West, and even with him, they don’t have a chance to rival the NBA champion Golden State Warriors. If Hayward has championship aspirations, he would be better served going to Boston or Miami, where the road is easier and he can be the focal point on a title contender.
Thumbnail photo via Isaiah J. Downing/USA TODAY Sports Images
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