If Gordon Hayward leaves the Utah Jazz, he could reunite with his collegiate coach Brad Stevens on the Boston Celtics. The Miami Heat are an option, too.
While recent reports indicate Miami is interested in Hayward, comments from Heat owner Pat Riley hint otherwise.
Riley spoke about his desire to keep the current roster intact rather than trying to sign an expensive free agent (via Miami Herald):
You don’t have to go whale hunting. You can acquire key players via trade, instead of laying out $38 million for a guy. Some of these max numbers are ridiculous. That’s the nature of the collective bargaining agreement.
Hayward did not make an All-NBA team, which makes him ineligible for the designated veteran player exception. Utah can offer an average annual value of $35.5 million.
If he leaves, the most he can earn is around $131 million through four years, which is an average annual value of $32.7 million. Miami has approximately $37.5 million in cap space heading into the upcoming offseason.
Even though Riley had previously hinted he did not want to pursue a pricier free agent, that could be a smoke screen. A more recent report spoke about a mutual interest between Hayward and the Heat (via Miami Herald):
An associate of Hayward said several weeks ago that he hadn’t heard Miami was particularly on Hayward’s radar and viewed Boston as the next-best option if he left Utah, which obviously wants to keep him. But a source connected with Hayward said this morning that Hayward now has legitimate interest in the Heat … Pat Riley can be very convincing and it won’t be surprising if he gets a meeting with Hayward. And if Riley gets a player in a room, anything can happen.
New York Daily News wrote Hayward could have been interested in the Heat in March 2017. The writer explained there is no state income tax, the weather is beautiful and it’s a top-class franchise.
For more on Hayward in free agency, check our updates on HoopsHype.