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Even as management said all along that it would match any offer for Hayward, the fanbase was split on whether or not paying him $63 million over four years was a good idea.
I was on the fence about it until I read a piece from Salt City Hoops' Dan Clayton, entitled "Why Our Gordon Hayward Comps Are All Wrong."
The whole article is worth a read, but what most applies to this slide is Clayton's convincing, numbers-based analysis of how Hayward can average 20 points, six rebounds and six assists.
If he's surrounded by the right coaches and teammates, those marks are well within his grasp.
On scoring, Clayton says:
He had career lows from the field and downtown, but that’s only part of the story. In his first three years, he was getting 27% of his attempts at the rim, 29% from three, and 33% on two-pointers from farther than 10 feet out. Last season, he dropped to 21% of his attempts coming around the basket and 27% from three while his mid- and long-range 2s went up to 39% of his shots.
Having higher-quality teammates and a more spread system might allow Gordon to get the types of shots he’s comfortable with. If he were to maintain his minutes and attempts from last season but return to his previous eFG%, he’d be averaging 17.6 with no other changes.
Then you figure that Snyder has promised more running. The Jazz played at the fifth-slowest pace in the NBA last season, and they scored just 12 points per game on the break. If Snyder wants to run more, the chief architects of the Jazz’s transition offense are going to be Dante Exum and Hayward.
It’s not hard at all to envision Hayward adding an extra bucket a game in the open court if the Jazz make a team-level focus on that, and suddenly he’s right at or near 20 points.
On the assists:
Hayward had 5.2 assists on 11.2 assist opportunities last season, which means six times per game he put someone in position to score but that player missed the shot. I have no mathematical proof that it will happen less this upcoming season, but if the Jazz put more legit NBA talent around him, it’s more likely that those shots fall.
And finally, rebounding:
From a rebounding perspective, the addition of Exum and probable departure of Richard Jefferson means we’ll see Hayward spend more time at small forward. More possessions also means more rebounds, so even if he doesn’t see a positional bump to his rebounding percentage, a slight uptick in pace could help him on a rebounding front.
All those quotes were merely snippets of what Clayton provided in the article. Again, I encourage you to read the whole thing if you're still worried the Jazz paid too much for Hayward.
Numbers like that would certainly be worth the contract he's signed too, but even with all the statistical analysis Clayton did, it's still speculation. There's no guarantee it will happen.
If Hayward stays at or near the level of production we saw in 2013-14, his contract will look pretty bad, but it's not crippling.
Even after matching the offer and signing rookies Exum and Hood, Utah still has cap space, and the pending extensions for Exum and Burke are years away. Plus, the salary cap is projected to continue to inflate over the next few years.
Given the position Utah's in right now, the fact that Hayward stands to benefit as much as anyone from having Snyder aboard and that he was drafted by the Jazz, matching such a big deal was the right move.
Still, you can't help but wonder how much the team might've saved had it gotten a deal done before the season.