Tuesday night, multiple news sources reported that Utah Jazz forward Gordon Hayward has agreed to terms on a max offer sheet from Michael Jordan and the Charlotte Hornets. The contract will reportedly be the four-year, $63 million maximum allowed by the NBA‘s collective bargaining agreement and will include a 15 percent trade kicker. Hayward can sign the offer sheet on July 10 when the league lifts its moratorium on free agent signings.
Michael Jordan’s Hornets have agreed to offer sheet with Utah restricted free agent Gordon Hayward, says @rick_bonnell of Charlotte Observer
— Marc Stein (@ESPNSteinLine) July 9, 2014
The numbers involved may come as a shock to some fans, but in the current marketplace and with Hayward being a restricted free agent, a max offer was always a possibility. The hope for Charlotte is that it has out-priced the Jazz, making it impossible for them to match the offer sheet and accept the burden of paying a maximum salary. For Jazz fans now fretting over the idea of Hayward leaving for nothing—don’t worry. Every indication has been that the team will match any offer for their leading scorer a year ago and, despite the criticism of such a deal on social media, it makes a lot of sense for them to do so here.
This isn’t the Andrei Kirilenko max of years past that severely limited the team’s ability to improve their roster around Deron Williams, Carlos Boozer and Mehmet Okur. The duration of the deal is two years shorter, the modern day Jazz have maintained much more financial flexibility and moreover, the league’s salary cap is friendlier now than it was then. In 2004 when Kirilenko signed his contract, the cap was about $43 million. Next season, the cap number for NBA teams looks to be in the neighborhood of $63 million. Furthermore, with revenues expected to soar in coming years via a new TV deal, that number should continue to rise.
All of this adds up to Utah being perfectly capable of matching a max offer for Hayward while still having room on their payroll to dole out fair-market deals for guys like Enes Kanter, Alec Burks, Trey Burke and Dante Exum when the time comes. Will Hayward’s production ever match the number on his paychecks? Most people think not, but if overpayment isn’t the poison pill it has been in the past, it makes a lot of sense when the alternative is letting your home-grown asset walk away for nothing.
Until the contract is actually signed, nobody knows exactly how things will play out, but all signs point to the Jazz retaining their guy. Forget what you heard—the team has absolutely no fear of paying a premium. Regardless of what the popular opinion might be on that front, there is rhyme and reason for general manager Dennis Lindsey and the Jazz to do so.