Does Utah's Gordon Hayward Deserve an Extension as Big as Paul George's?
The reasons for the impasse in negotiations are varied. Utah is hesitant to throw a ton of money to a player who's never played more than 30 minutes a game. Hayward's camp knows it has leverage in the form of free agency this summer. And the Indiana Pacers recently signed Hayward's 2010 draft classmate Paul George to a max extension.
The similarities between George and Hayward aren't difficult to uncover. Both are 6'8" and have the ability to play either wing position. Both are centerpieces for their teams. And together, they rounded out the top 10 of the 2010 draft. Hayward went ninth, just before George was selected 10th.
At first glance, not many fans outside Utah would think Hayward deserves anywhere near the five-year, $80 million deal George received from the Pacers in September. The latter won the 2013 Most Improved Player of the Year award and led his team to within one win of upsetting the Miami Heat in the Eastern Conference Finals. The former started just 27 games and didn't even get to the playoffs.
But it's difficult to fault Hayward for those things. I can't believe how many Jazz fans still have hair. I darn-near had to pull mine out over my frustration with Hayward not starting last season. He was clearly Utah's best wing throughout 2012-13 season, but coach Tyrone Corbin opted to limit his role, starting Randy Foye and Marvin Williams instead.
So, Hayward's basic averages of 14.1 points and 3.1 rebounds in 29.2 minutes don't come close to telling his story.
Comparing per-36-minute averages and advanced stats from his 2012-13 campaign to George's may surprise a few people
There's almost no way you can argue against Hayward being the more efficient scorer of the two. And in terms of playmaking, Hayward was only behind because of the role in which he played.
This preseason, he ran the show in much the same way George does for Indiana. In eight games, Hayward averaged 19.5 points, six assists and 5.7 rebounds per 36 minutes.
As you can see, there's a decent argument that he's better than the Pacers wing offensively.
Where Hayward's clearly behind George is on defense. Defensive Rating (DRtg) is an estimate of how many points a player allows per 100 possessions. Anything under 100 is really good. And as you can see, George's 97 is much better than Hayward's 110.
But that doesn't mean Hayward is a total slouch defensively. In fact, he's vastly underrated as a shot-blocker. His 0.7 blocks per 36 minutes is just behind chase-down artist LeBron James' 0.8. And the video evidence of Hayward's most underrated attribute is pretty fun to watch.
Back to the original question: Is Hayward worth the same amount as George? While it's clear that Utah's wing is pretty underrated, the answer still has to be no.
Hayward's numbers per 36 minutes are great, but George's defense makes him a slightly more complete player, and he's proven himself capable of being the leader of a title-contending team.
Does Gordon Hayward deserve Paul George-level money?
But it's certainly not difficult to see how and why Hayward and his agent may be using George's big payday as leverage.
Whatever the price ends up being, you have to hope a deal gets done if you're a Jazz fan.
All stats courtesy of Basketball-Reference unless otherwise noted.
For 140-character pearls of wisdom from Bleacher Report's Andy Bailey, follow him on Twitter @AndrewDBailey.
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