Jazz expected to match Hornets’ max contract offer to Gordon Hayward, which is absolutely the right decision

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The Hornets gave Gordon Hayward an offer sheet of a four-year max contract, and while nothing can be signed until the NBA’s free agency moratorium period ends on July 10, he has reportedly agreed to sign it when the time comes.

The Jazz have said all along that the plan was to match any offer Hayward received, and multiple reports confirmed this again once the news of the agreement between Hayward and Charlotte became publicly official.

The money being thrown at Hayward may seem excessive at first glance — $63 million guaranteed over four years, although the last year is a player option that may see Hayward choose to leave in free agency before Utah is officially on the hook for that final $16.7 million.

But should the Jazz match as expected, it’s absolutely the right decision.

It’s worth noting that just because we call all four- or five-year contracts “maximum,” that doesn’t mean that they’re all worth the same. They’re the maximum length allowed under the collective bargaining agreement, but the amount depends on how long a player has been in the league, and whether they re-sign with their current team or leave to go somewhere else.

Carmelo Anthony’s four-year max, for example, should he leave the Knicks to sign with someone like the Lakers, is $97 million — far more than Hayward’s number of $63 million, which is necessary to point out to provide some perspective.

It’s still a lot for Hayward, but there’s a reason teams like the Hornets and the Jazz are willing to offer it — they simply don’t have a lot of other choices.

The next marquee free agent that voluntarily chooses to play for the Jazz will be the first. Star-level players never even consider Utah when free agency comes, so if the Jazz are fortunate enough to draft well, they need to overpay for that level of talent if they want to entice it to stay.

Restricted free agency is in place for precisely this reason, to give small market teams a chance to hang onto their rookies for up to seven seasons. That will be the case with Hayward, who has been in Utah for four years and can opt out after three more to pursue unrestricted free agency if that’s what he ultimately believes will be best.

Hayward isn’t quite an All-Star just yet, and didn’t improve as much as expected last season, despite getting a significant bump in minutes. Still, his averages of 16.2 points, 5.1 rebounds, 5.2 assists and 1.4 steals in 36.4 minutes per contest show a more-than-solid overall game that’s worth waiting out.

As a comparison, those numbers (steals not included) were matched by only four other players in the league last season — ¬†LeBron James, Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and Michael Carter-Williams.

At his current level of production, and even with a small amount of projected improvement, Hayward might not be worth a max contract to teams more closely considered to be actual title contenders. But for markets like Charlotte and Utah, Hayward would be a fine signing at that amount — not only because of his acceptable relative level of talent, but also because of their somewhat limited options.