Most of this summer’s big-name free agents are near-locks to re-sign where they’re at. It would be at least slightly stunning to see Chris Paul or Blake Griffin leave the Clippers, and no one would ever imagine Stephen Curry or Kevin Durant leaving the Warriors. But one name who is thought to at least be somewhat available, or open to conversations, and who could have a real impact in a terrible free agency class, is Utah Jazz forward Gordon Hayward.
The New York Daily News, in a delightful column highlighting how much of a failure Phil Jackson has been as GM compared to Pat Riley, notes that the Heat could be one team he looks at seriously this summer.
Riley has a home court advantage because Miami is a prime free agent destination. The weather, the zero state income tax and the chance to play for a top franchise are too good for a lot of players to turn down. There are already whispers that if Utah can’t re-sign Gordon Hayward he could end up in Miami.
That’s a pretty soft rumor, but it’s interesting. The Heat started out 11-30 and are now on the verge of securing a playoff spot. Goran Dragic has been great at times, Hassan Whiteside is a double-double machine, Dion Waiters has impressed, and they’ve had good players take larger roles on this team, while young guys like Rodney McGruder developed. The questions are about where they go from here.
Does adding Hayward make them a contender? No, but it gets them closer. They could use that core to build a pitch for a true marquee free agent to put them back into the title picture, at least theoretically.
They will receive competition for Hayward, obviously. The biggest threat is thought to come from Boston and Hayward’s college coach Brad Stevens. Fans were cheering Hayward so hard earlier this year. The Celtics are obviously closer to a title than Miami, and will have just as much money to sign Hayward. And then, of course, there’s Utah, which seems likely to make every effort to retain its star. But there’s also been a lot of whispering about the amount of money the Jazz are set to have to spend over the next few years on Rodney Hood and George Hill on top of Hayward and Rudy Gobert. It would be surprising if the Jazz let Hayward leave, but not out and out shocking, especially with him as a free agent and one of the absolute best on the market.
The Heat do have South Beach, and Pat Riley’s history of success. They have an up-and-coming roster, a great coach, and a history of success. Is that enough to lure Hayward away from the mountains? We’ll have to wait until this summer to find out.