The Utah Jazz did everything right. They collected assets, developed a winning culture and became one of the best teams in the NBA. But in the end, the allure of Boston and playing for Celtics coach Brad Stephens proved to be too much for the Jazz to compete with.
Gordon Hayward inked a 4 year, $128 million dollar deal with the Celtics last night.
Thank You, Utah. https://t.co/ICfocNeZfW
— Gordon Hayward (@gordonhayward) July 4, 2017
The NBA is a brutal zero-sum league and now the Jazz are left out in the wind, hoping they can sign Rudy freaking Gay. It’s hard to blame Hayward for going to the Eastern Conference, where he will surely make the All-Star team every year and play in the conference finals.
But, man, the Jazz were building something with Rudy Gobert and Derrick Favors and it would have been interesting to see how Ricky Rubio and Hayward played in Quinn Snyder’s system.
Rudy Gobert posted this on his Instagram story. 👀
— NBA SKITS (@NBA_Skits) July 5, 2017
Now it’s back to square one for the Jazz, who aren’t a free agent destination but have enough talent to be a fringe playoff team, which will make the path to signing a superstar very difficult. Being mediocre in the NBA is fine but for a small market franchise it is important to have several shots at top-5 picks in the draft. Finding a franchise player at the end of the lottery is doable but not easy. The Jazz don’t appear willing to bottom out and tank for a high draft pick making their road back to 50-win seasons very tough.
The Celtics, on the other hand, are freaking stoked. Hayward and Stephens are back together and we’ll see if they can accomplish what eluded them at Butler. These two go way back.
— NBA on ESPN (@ESPNNBA) July 4, 2017
When Hayward was a no-name 9th grader at a small Indiana high school, Stephens, then the Butler University coach, saw something in him. When Hayward developed and the bigger schools came calling, he stayed loyal to Stephens and the small Indianapolis university.
Hayward is a relentless worker who improves his game and his conditioning every summer. His ball handling ability and his physique are light-years beyond what they were when he entered the league.
Gordon Hayward, in 2010 and today pic.twitter.com/2oxH0oEE1Q
— SI Vault (@si_vault) July 5, 2017
Hayward, a solid floor spacer and secondary playmaker, should fit seamlessly into Boston’s egalitarian offense. Additionally, he has developed his defense and rebounding which was on full display in Utah’s first-round series last year against the Clippers.
Hayward grabbed some tremendous rebounds in traffic and came up with some crucial stops, often times being switched onto Chris Paul.
One would also have to assume that the NBA is very happy about this signing. It helps balance out the league and will make the Celtics a viable threat to the Cavs in the East. But does this close the gap with LeBron?
Not even close. In any match-up with the Cavs, Cleveland has the best two players on the court in James and Irving. Granted, the Celtics will have a nice set of wing players to throw at LeBron, but there is no way he sees Hayward’s signing as a threat to his Eastern Conference supremacy.
The Celtics should look to cash in on Avery Bradley, Jae Crowder, and Marcus Smart right now. Go out and find some players with size who are capable rebounders. The Cavs and Wizards will continue to punish them inside if they don’t.
Boston is becoming quite the free agent destination. In back-to-back summers they have landed Al Horford and now Hayward. Both players are relatively young and fit their style perfectly. The Celtics don’t have any cap space left for next summer but they have a plethora of trade assets that almost any team would find intriguing.
Now GM Danny Ainge needs to get back to work to fill out this roster. But hey, at least he didn’t come up completely empty this summer.