This coming summer is lining up to be one of the most exciting offseasons for Miami Heat fans since a certain 6-foot-8 player with hairline issues decided to bring his talents to South Beach.
Miami, which finished just outside of the playoffs despite finishing the season with a 30-11 record, will have salary cap space in spade come June – something to the tune of $40 million.
Previous Whales: Zach Randolph
Today’s whale: Gordon Hayward
Previous Team: Utah Jazz
Free Agency Status: Player Option
2016-17 Salary: $16,073,140
Career Earnings: $57,279,893
2016-17 Stats: 21.9 points, 5.4 rebounds, 3.5 assists
How he fits in the boat: Gordon Hayward enjoyed a career year in 2016-17.
He scored nearly 22 points per game this season, became an All-Star for the first time and he helped the Jazz reach the second round of the playoffs where they were fed to The Garthok…err, I mean swept by the Golden State Warriors.
Since coming out of Butler University – where he played for current Boston Celtics head coach Brad Stevens – Hayward’s game has blossomed and he has turned himself into a consistent all-star caliber player and one of the league’s few, true two-way mavens.
Because he just turned 27, Hayward is presumably in his prime and will command a pretty hefty asking price – likely somewhere in the $20 million a year range.
There is the mere formality of him officially opting out of the final year of his current deal. He has a player-option and could “opt-in”, but with all the money that will flood the open market this June, Hayward would be smart to opt out – even if he wants to stay in Utah.
Pat Riley would be smart to pursue Hayward this summer because Hayward already embodies a lot of the principles the Heat organization likes in its players and he would fit in nicely with what Miami already has in tow.
Hayward is a “worker”. Over the course of his career, it is not hard to see that he spends his offseasons perfecting his craft. Hayward’s game isn’t built on flash and it holds great substance – efficient scoring and shooting and a commitment to defense.
He shot career bests 47 percent from the field, nearly 40 percent from three-point range and 84 percent from the free throw line this season while also averaging a full steal per game.
Slotting Hayward into Miami’s starting lineup next season would be a two-fold bonus for the Heat.
Most importantly, bringing in Hayward would give Miami the go-to scorer it lacked in certain situations in 2016. Hayward could work within the structure of the offense, but he could also be the guy you give the ball to when the offense breaks down against the shot clock.
His three-point shooting would give much-needed space to Hassan Whiteside and he could work off of Goran Dragic’s driving to the basket.
The added bonus would be his defensive prowess.
The Heat will get Justise Winslow back from injury for next season and if it were to add Hayward, Miami would be able to trot out a starting five that would have the tools to finish as one of the league’s top defensive units.
Winslow could draw the assignment of guarding the opposing team’s best player, Hayward could do the same thing or at least give head coach Erik Spoelstra the option to switch matchups on the perimeter and Whiteside will be stationed down low acting as the “long arm of the law”.
Selling Hayward on Miami shouldn’t be that hard.
He would be working in a weaker conference and would have an easier route to becoming an All-Star, he would be teaming up with a young and emerging duo in Whiteside and Winslow, he would be the team’s No. 1 guy, and – I cannot stress this one enough – he would no longer in Utah.