Let's say this all plain and simple: In terms of where he is as a player, there's no way Gordon Hayward is worth $63 million. He's not a max-money guy. The Jazz know this. A lucky Hayward knows it, too. They and he have experienced it, firsthand. If they'd thought he was worth that kind of cash, they would have offered it before last season, before Hayward became a restricted free agent this month.
Everyone associated with the club has seen Hayward turn less and less efficient as a shooter in each of his four seasons here. The greater the responsibility placed on him, the greater the inefficiency. The more he shot, the more he missed. The stats don't lie: 48 percent to 45 percent to 43 percent to 41 percent. Hayward hit just 30 percent of his 3-pointers last season, also a career low. His turnovers have headed the other direction. He averaged nearly three a game in 2013-14.
He did score 16 points, haul five boards and dish five assists.
He's not a chump. He's not a Yugo, an Edsel, a Pinto. He can play and he might even become an occasional All-Star with his array of talents that stretch from one end of the floor to the other. He's just not a perennial.
Under the terms of the deal the Jazz are matching out of Charlotte for Hayward, he will make in the neighborhood of $16 million a year. You know how much Tim Duncan made with the Spurs last season? Ten mill. There are, of course, ridiculous piles of cake stacked up for lesser players around the league, but the tax bracket Hayward has now entered through the largesse of the Jazz, by way of the Hornets, is dramatic for what Hayward has earned on the court.
Still, they had to do it.
They could afford to do it.
So they did it.
Put it this way: If you were on a mandatory two-thousand-mile journey across a lonely, desolate road, with a trunkload of C-notes in the backseat, and 200 miles in, your car blew up, and there happened to be a single auto dealership at that juncture, would you shell out a portion of your money for a new ride? Yeah, you would. Even if the new LaCrosse was priced like a Quattroporte GTS.
The Jazz just secured themselves that LaCrosse, and the journey continues.
A few things:
1) The Jazz couldn't let Hayward walk. They'd developed him over the span of four seasons, and while that growth wasn't perfect, it wasn't bad. Hayward is an unselfish two-way player who can score, pass, run the floor, and play some D. He's not a first option. His skill set is better suited to complementing, not dominating. But there is great value to that skill set, especially in the kind of spread, passing offense Quin Snyder will try to implement with the Jazz. That offense will emphasize the type of defense-leads-to-transition-baskets methodology in which Hayward thrives.
2) The extra cash the Jazz will pay Hayward won't hurt them in the 500-lashes way that punitive six-year Andrei Kirilenko deal did. That was a different time, a different team, a team that was over the salary cap. The Jazz are so far under that threshold now, they have extra money to spend. If they don't use it on Hayward, they'd have to spend it on someone, along the lines of the money they threw away on players such as Andris Biedrins and Brandon Rush last season. Better to spend it on players that, you know, actually play.
As for developing youngsters who might cost the Jazz more money in the years ahead, they should be able to handle those increases in a positive scenario under which those players say, Alec Burks and Enes Kanter would be in a position to ask for more. They've got room to spend additional money, particularly since the salary cap is bound to increase considerably in the seasons ahead. A coming large TV deal will help push that cap upward. In the case of Trey Burke, he is spoken for until 2018, so the Jazz have time there.
3) The Jazz struggle to get big-name free agents to come to Salt Lake, they can't erase mistakes with huge signings, so more pressure is put on them to draft the right players and hold onto them. That's what San Antonio has done to win five titles. Draft well, develop, add a few pieces and hold onto your stars. If Hayward had played for another team, and was available to the Jazz, how much would they have had to pay to get him? The same amount they're paying him now, and everybody around here would have been happy about it.
So, the Jazz are driving an expensive Buick. They overpaid. They gambled on Hayward's eventual worth in the free market, and lost. They lost because some other suitor was as desperate no, eager as they are. But they knew, worst case, they wouldn't be left on the side of a lonely road in the middle of the desert with no way home. Mixed metaphor or no, that's the truth.
The Jazz did what they had to do. Now, that Buick had best run.
GORDON MONSON hosts "The Big Show" with Spence Checketts weekdays from 3-7 p.m. on 97.5 FM/1280 and 960 AM The Zone. Twitter: @GordonMonson.