Gordon Hayward may be one of the best free agents on the market this summer that no one is talking about. The Utah Jazz swingman will be a restricted free agent this summer which means that any team can make him an offer, but the Jazz will have the final word on whether the former Butler star will return to Salt Lake City. The Los Angeles Lakers are in a need of a young versatile player like Hayward and must target him to help turn their fortunes around for the 2014-15 season.
Playing in Utah Hayward has flown under the radar, but he has quietly become one of the most efficient players in the league. If you look at opposing teams’ scouting reports, they would mention Gordon as a great shooter, skilled passer and a very capable defender. At 6-foot-8, Hayward is a prototypical NBA wing who can guard and play several positions.
Hayward’s production has improved each year since being in the NBA and averaged 16 points, five rebounds and five assists per game last year. Hayward’s talents could mesh well with the Lakers, who will also have a high pick in the 2014 draft. Kobe Bryant is the well established No. 1 player in Los Angeles, but the multifaceted Hayward could definitely be a No. 2 or No. 3 option.
Adding Hayward and his 16 PPG average would replace the production of Nick Young, who probably would not get an offer from the Lakers with Hayward aboard.
The salary cap-conscious Lakers still have their eyes set on the 2015 free agent class, but signing a player like Hayward now could pay immediate dividends. The Jazz have made it known that they will match all offers for Hayward, so the Lakers will need to be creative with what they offer him. Most executives will say that Hayward is worth about $9 million per year, but the Lakers will need to offer closer to $10 or $11 million.
Hayward is only 24 years old and has not yet reached his prime. Playing with arguably one of the best to ever play the game in Bryant plus playing for a winning franchise could really give Hayward what he needs to take his game to next level.
Despite the lack of headlines, Hayward has the ability and skill to be the steal of the 2014 free agent class. The Lakers would be wise to inquire about what it would take for Hayward to bring his talents to Los Angeles.