SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — Teams are lining up to offer Gordon Hayward a max contract when free agency begins Saturday morning. How the Utah Jazz address their point guard situation could affect the All-Star’s decision as much as anything else.
The Jazz can offer Hayward more cash than anyone else, but the seven-year veteran wants to win sooner than later. The Boston Celtics are considered a top suitor after advancing to the Eastern Conference finals with the ability to add two more All-Star caliber players this offseason. The Miami Heat are also expected to be in the mix.
Utah showed it was trending upward with its first 50-win season since 2009-10 and a playoff berth for the first time since 2012. Hayward and Rudy Gobert had career years, but the addition of George Hill gave the Jazz their best point guard production since Deron Williams was traded in 2011.
Hill, however, is a free agent.
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“We’re very anxious to tell our story,” Jazz general manager Dennis Lindsey said. “The last two summers, I think people are noticing. We anticipate a very good and interested audience. And obviously a veteran point guard is one of them.”
There are high expectations in Utah for point guards after watching Hall of Famer John Stockton for 19 seasons. That standard continued with Williams before the two-time All-Star and the team had an ugly breakup and he was traded. The Jazz have been looking for consistent play at the position since that split and finally got it last season with Hill, who along with Hayward is a Jazz free agent priority.
Utah has added at least one point guard to the roster every June since Lindsey has taken over, including three in the lottery and trading a pick for Hill. And despite their efforts, the Jazz continue to search for a long-term answer at the position. Trey Burke (No. 9 overall pick), Dante Exum (No. 5) and Raul Neto were all added between 2013-15.
Lindsey traded the No. 12 pick for Hill last June, and he averaged a career high 16.9 points, but struggled with injuries. Utah also drafted Marcus Paige in 2016. The Jazz traded up to draft Donovan Mitchell at No. 12 and selected Nigel Williams-Goss in the second round last week.
It is possible that Serbian point guard Milos Teodosic, among others, could end up in Utah this summer.
“It sounds really similar to when I was transferring to Gonzaga,” Williams-Goss said. “… Like being…