The deadline for teams to agree to contract extensions with players in the final year of their rookie contracts is Oct. 31, and Gordon Hayward is someone that the Jazz would like to lock up with a long-term deal before that date passes.
But just how large appears to be a sticking point, and the sides remain far apart on an agreement with only five days left to get something done.
From Sam Amick of USA Today:
… as Hayward continues to showcase his under-appreciated skills during the preseason, and as it seems more apparent that his fanbase extends beyond the Jazz and to the league at large, the chance remains that he may not agree to an extension and will instead choose to be a highly sought-after restricted free agent next summer.
A person with knowledge of the talks said the two sides were not close to a deal as of Saturday afternoon, though that doesn’t mean one may not eventually get done. The person spoke to USA TODAY Sports on the condition of anonymity because of the private nature of the talks.
The question the Jazz are likely asking themselves regarding Hayward is, will his offensive production continue to increase in a rebuilding situation when he’s their primary scorer?
Last season, Hayward was fourth on the team in usage rate behind Al Jefferson, Mo Williams, and Paul Millsap. This season, there’s a strong chance that Hayward will top that list. If he can produce as the team’s main all-around threat, he’d be worth the kind of contract that he’s reportedly seeking.
Consider this: Over his last five preseason games, Hayward has averaged 18 points, 4.8 rebounds, and five assists per contest. It’s obviously only the preseason, and that fact certainly doesn’t help the extremely small sample size. But if he could manage to replicate those numbers over the course of the regular season, we’re talking about an elite NBA talent — only LeBron James, James Harden, Russell Westbrook, Kobe Bryant and Dwyane Wade managed to meet or exceed all three of those thresholds last season.
The Jazz have a big decision to make, and they’d like to get a bit of a bargain by signing Hayward before he has a complete breakout season. But even if they can’t get something done before the deadline, Utah will retain Hayward’s right as a restricted free agent next summer. The team will just have to hope that by then, Hayward hasn’t played his way into an offer of a max deal from someone else.