The Charlotte Hornets are rolling out the red carpet for Gordon Hayward. The team reached a 4 year $63 million dollar contract agreement with Hayward late Tuesday night. But, it seems the Utah Jazz will match the offer.
The Hornets entered this offseason ready to capitalize on the dual momentum of their long awaited name change and the team’s first playoff appearance in four years. Last off-season brought the acquisition of Al Jefferson, easily the biggest free agent signing in franchise history. The team believed his signing and subsequent success would signal to free agents that Charlotte was a viable destination for players. After trading away a second round pick to Cleveland to move Brendan Haywood’s contract, Charlotte was positioned to have just enough cap space to sign a mini-max player(a restricted free agent with four years of experience) and keep the Bird Rights to Josh McRoberts. Even with McRoberts leaving it still appears the Hornets are looking to use their money on a big free agent and their target seems to be Gordon Hayward.
On paper Gordon Hayward makes a lot of sense for this team. With Al serving court inside and Kemba Walker improving at point, the big weakness on this team is wing scoring. In the draft Charlotte took the best prospect (Noah Vonleh) on the board at 9, so free agency is the avenue for improving the wings. Gordon Hayward fits what the team wants in a free agent: he is young(only 24 years old) and he can score(averaged over 23 ppg this year).
Considering the Utah Jazz will match the offer, it seems Gordon Hayward will not be a Charlotte Hornet. But if Charlotte really wants Hayward, it isn’t over yet. This gives Charlotte two options. One, Charlotte could work out some sort of sign and trade so that Utah will not match the contract. Utah drafted Rodney Hood in the first round of the NBA Draft last month. Hood plays the same position as Hayward and his drafting may signal Utah is planning on life without him, Charlotte could therefore offer a player or pick as compensation to entice Utah to do a sign-and-trade deal.
So what could Charlotte offer? I assume Al and Kemba are off the table for this discussion. Utah allowed Al to walk as a free agent last year and Utah has Trey Burke under a longer, cheaper contract then Walker. I do not think Charlotte would move Cody Zeller or Vonleh unless Charlotte believes they can not play together. I believe they can and it is too soon to move them. Outside that, Charlotte has little to offer in a sign and trade. Michael Kidd-Gilchrist is the best prospect left and he could improve Utah’s defense but I think Utah would rather pay Hayward than Kidd-Gilchrist.
Gordon Haywood seems to be exactly what Charlotte needs, but that does not make it any less complicated.
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