Gordon Hayward's Extension Is More Important Than Derrick Favors' for the Jazz
For all his physical gifts and athleticism, Favors still lacks the offensive skill that could make him a dominant two-way player. He needs someone to set him up for easy looks, and Hayward has been Utah's best playmaker this preseason—even before Trey Burke went down.
And that's only one facet of the complete game Hayward has been showing off this preseason. On top of making things much easier for his teammates, he can create and knock down his own shot, defend and rebound.
I was pretty sure Utah's best player would be signed first, but I guess the Jazz and Hayward's agent are having a hard time deciding what all that skill is worth.
After Favors' deal, there are now a couple reference points for what it should be worth. The other is Paul George's extension signed back in September.
According to ESPN, the 2012-13 Most Improved Player's deal is worth five years and somewhere between $80 and $90 million for the Indiana Pacers.
Hayward should fall somewhere behind that, but still earn more than the four years and $49 million for which Favors just signed.
The reason he'll make less than George is not lack of skill, but rather lack of reputation—a fringe benefit of holding the young guys back. Because Hayward's role was much smaller than George's last season, the Jazz should get a better offensive player for less money.
Both were taken in the 2010 draft—Hayward ninth overall, George 10th. But the Pacers brought their young stud along one year faster than the Jazz did with theirs. Even still, advanced metrics show that Utah's wing is better on one end of the floor.
The two had identical player efficiency ratings (PER) last season, but Hayward was a more efficient shooter, took better care of the ball and sported a higher offensive rating (ORtg)—an estimate of the number of points a player produces per 100 possessions.
But while Hayward is the better offensive player, George has the edge on defense—though not by as much as you think. Hayward isn't known as a lockdown defender, but he is solid and vastly underrated in one area—shot-blocking. His block percentage was actually higher than George's last season. Here's a sampling for those of you who don't follow the Jazz.
Even with how favorably Hayward compares to George, he's not likely to sign an extension worth too much more than Favors'. But if his agent is smart, he could use it as leverage.
The Jazz big man has a bright future in the league. He averaged 14.6 points and 11 rebounds per 36 minutes last season and like I said before, he has incredible physical gifts. At the 2010 NBA Draft Combine, he measured 6'10" with a 7'4" wingspan and a 35.5-inch vertical.
But his career high for average minutes played is 23.2 and he's only started 44 games in three seasons. He hasn't proven he can produce against opposing first-team guys for extended stretches. This preseason has been his first shot, and it hasn't been the smoothest sailing (though his 10 points on 4-of-7 shooting and 17 rebounds Wednesday was a sign of progress).
As a defender and rebounder, Favors is already stellar—he was fifth in the league in block percentage for the 2012-13 season. But he's not a complete player yet, and may never be. We're all still waiting for DeAndre Jordan, JaVale McGee and even Dwight Howard to turn that corner.
Hayward is a complete player. And I'm not saying he's reached his full potential, just that he's shown he can do everything he needs to on the floor.
How much should Gordon Hayward's next contract be worth?
If the Jazz don't lock him up by the October 31 deadline, Hayward will become a restricted free agent this summer. That means any team can sign him to an offer sheet and Utah will have a chance to match the deal.
Going that route is dangerous because Hayward is primed for a breakout season as the Jazz' point forward. I even argued that he might win Most Improved Player of the Year in 2013-14. If that happens, matching another organization's offer sheet would likely prove to be much more expensive than extending him now.
Utah has an extremely bright future, but it will only stay that way if the team can hang on to the best players from this young core. I don't think it should be too hard. Again, bringing them along slowly has made them more affordable.
They've already secured Favors—and I'm sure I speak for most fans when I say that I hope Hayward is next.
All stats courtesy of Basketball-Reference unless otherwise noted.
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