The Cleveland Cavaliers’ long-time infatuation with Gordon Hayward intensified Wednesday when they brought the restricted free agent to Cleveland for a visit, a league source with knowledge of the meeting confirmed.
Yahoo Sports first reported Hayward was meeting with team officials.
The Utah Jazz, Hayward’s current team, will have three days to match any offer sheet he signs after July 10 (the first day contracts can become official). The Jazz have made it clear they intend to match any offer for Hayward.
The Cavs have been targeting Hayward for months and know it will take a monster offer to pry him away from the Jazz — and it might still not be enough. ESPN reported the Cavs are preparing what could be a max offer sheet. Based on the projected cap figure of $63 million for next season, that means Hayward’s deal would be worth about $16 million next season.
That’s an awful lot for a player who has averaged 12 points a game in his career, never made an All-Star team and has played in only four postseason games. Hayward averaged career highs of 16.2 points, 5.1 rebounds and 5.2 assists last season, but shot a career-worst .413. His scoring has increased, but his shooting percentage has decreased in each of his first four seasons.
Hayward earned $3.4 million last season after he was selected ninth overall in the 2010 draft. He and the Jazz were unable to agree on an extension last summer after the Jazz gave Derrick Favors a four-year, $49 million extension last October. Hayward rejected an offer from the Jazz before last season, believed to be four years and about $48 million, and will likely exceed that offer now in free agency.
Along with the Cavs, the Boston Celtics and Phoenix Suns reportedly have already expressed interest in him. Celtics coach Brad Stevens had Hayward at Butler.
Hayward seems to play the same position as top overall pick Andrew Wiggins, but Cavs General Manager David Griffin said after drafting Wiggins he envisions the rookie reaching stardom as a big shooting guard.
The Cavs are comfortable if Wiggins opens next season as the starting small forward, but his ability to play in the backcourt also allows them to continue pursuing other free agents.
The timing of Wednesday’s meeting was curious only because LeBron James has yet to make a decision on his future. The Cavs have waited months, even years, for the opportunity to speak with James. It would be surprising if they extended an offer sheet to Hayward now before getting a firm answer on James’ future.
As for their own free agents, C.J. Miles agreed to a four-year, $18 million deal with the Indiana Pacers. Miles spent the last two seasons with the Cavs and made $2.2 million last year. His deal can’t become official until July 10.
The Cavs never really pursued Miles or showed much interest in retaining him, said one person with knowledge of the situation.
By Jason Lloyd - Akron Beacon Journal (MCT)
©2014 Akron Beacon Journal (Akron, Ohio)
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