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Celtics Among Teams Showing Interest in Hayward
Wednesday, Oct. 12
In his "30 Crazy Predictions for the 2016-17 NBA Season" column, ESPN.com's Zach Lowe predicted that Hayward would re-sign with the Jazz.
There is probably more buzz surrounding Hayward's impending free agency than about [Chris] Paul, [Blake] Griffin, Kyle Lowry and other starrier names. Hayward is 26, in the meat of his prime, killing it at the thinnest position in the league. Utah waited for Charlotte to max him out last time around, and Hayward has a long memory. The Jazz have a ton of guys to pay, and if they down enough beers (just kidding, it's Utah!), they might convince themselves they have the wing depth to withstand Hayward bolting. His beloved college coach runs a rising team with an easy roadmap to max-cap space -- and real interest in Hayward, per several league sources.
But if Utah makes a leap, the smart money is on Hayward sticking. The Jazz can offer a winning young core, an extra fifth season and if the new CBA breaks right for them, a little more cash than home teams can dangle under the current deal.
The most fascinating aspect of Lowe's prediction is that the Boston Celtics are reportedly showing interest in Hayward. The fact that Brad Stevens coached Hayward during the pair's Butler days—and that the Celtics have a talented, young roster in need of another focal point such as Hayward—makes the potential connection intriguing.
Hayward, 26, averaged 19.7 points, 5.0 rebounds and 3.7 assists in 80 games for the Jazz last season. He's now posted 19 or more points per game in two straight seasons and has established himself as one of the top small forwards in the game.
If he hits free agency, he'll have countless suitors.
Ultimately, Lowe thinks the Jazz will re-sign him. The team's future likely depends on being able to do so. But Utah will almost assuredly have to agree to a long-term extension before Hayward hits free agency. If he hits the market, the competition to keep him will be stiff, as numerous contenders will likely come calling.
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