Word out of Utah is that the Jazz will match any offer for forward Gordon Hayward, and the Cleveland Cavaliers appear ready to test that expectation. Hayward is in Cleveland on Wednesday, and there could be an offer sheet handed out to the restricted free agent shortly, according to Yahoo! Sports' Adrian Wojnarowski.
ESPN's Brian Windhorst reports Hayward will be looking at a max deal, meaning his contract could start off in the $15 million-per-year range.
It's not surprising Cleveland is attempting to make a splash in free agency, but this is the first indication Hayward was one of its targets. What are the chances the Cavs can sign him away from Utah?
Why it could happen
Most of the reasoning for this comes from the Cleveland angle: The Cavs did draft Andrew Wiggins this year but could easily see him playing a good amount of time at shooting guard. While Dion Waiters has shown good signs playing alongside Kyrie Irving, he's also been mentioned as a trade chip. The bigger picture is that Irving, who recently signed a five-year, $90 million contract extension, needs to be relieved of some of the playmaking duties, and Hayward certainly brings that possibility at a different position on the floor.
The free agent market has been expensive thus far, so it's not surprising teams value the 24-year-old Hayward as a max player -- Jodie Meeks got $20 million over three years, after all. If Utah doesn't want to pony up what could become a four-year, $60 million contract offer that might be coming, the Jazz could work out a sign-and-trade deal with the Cavs.
Why it won't happen
Rumors floated around before the free agency process that the Phoenix Suns would possibly offer Hayward a max deal, and the Deseret News' Jody Genessy reported the Jazz planned to match even that. Genessy reiterated that stance on Wednesday. Though it might be viewed as an overspend, this is the decision teams must make when they want to retain their own draft picks once they develop into valuable players.
Hayward averaged 16.2 points, 5.2 assists and 5.1 boards per game this past season. While his efficiency has taken hits each year as his role has grown, he's still a talented and developing player who fits with the young roster in Utah. The Jazz aren't capable of wooing a more talented free agent this season.
So what's the likelihood the Cavs get their man?
Maybe the Jazz were posturing about their matching capabilities to keep the price down, but the Cavs are hoping to ink Hayward to a big deal for the same reasons Utah would be posturing in the first place. Cleveland might be desperate to win now more than the rebuilding Jazz, but it would seem disappointing for Utah to let Hayward leave considering that his growth is right in sync with that of the team as a whole. Give Hayward a low 3 out of 10 chance of becoming a Cavalier.