The free-agent spending spree reached a new level of intrigue when the Hornets and Gordon Hayward agreed on a four-year contract worth a reported $63 million, a maximum deal that will severely test the long-standing Jazz promise to match any Hayward offer sheet.
A player option for the fourth year of the deal and a 15 percent trade kicker are expected to be included in the offer sheet, league sources told Yahoo Sports.
Both would be considered incentives to dissuade the Jazz from matching the sheet, but Utah officials have remained adamant they will match any sheet for Hayward – including a max offer.
Agent Mark Bartelstein aggressively courted the market for an offer sheet for Hayward, discussing deals with several teams – including Cleveland, Phoenix and Boston – but ultimately reached the deal with Charlotte on Tuesday. There was doubt within the league whether Bartelstein could secure a max offer for Hayward, but he found a willing suitor with the Hornets.
Charlotte is negotiating with free agent Marvin Williams to replace Josh McRoberts at power forward, but those talks could be on hold while Utah is working to match the offer sheet.
Hayward, 24, will sign the offer sheet when the free-agent moratorium is lifted on Thursday, and league rules will give Utah three days to make a decision on matching the deal.
Several other teams had called Utah to inquire about the possibility of sign-and-trade deals if they signed Hayward to an offer sheet, but Charlotte never did, sources tell Yahoo Sports. The Hornets are short of the kind of young frontline talent that would appeal to teams in such a deal.
The Hornets had made it an offseason priority to add scoring and especially on the wing, a primary reason they looked hard at two of the best shooters in the draft, Doug McDermott and Nik Stauskas, with the ninth pick in the draft before unexpectedly finding power forward Noah Vonleh still on the board. So the appeal of the 24-year-old Hayward and his 16.2 points a game last season is obvious, even with the concern that his field-goal percentage has declined each of the last four seasons.
The 6-foot-8 Hayward is also a good passer from the front court and would address Charlotte’s hope of getting bigger.
The offer sheet can be signed as soon as the league-wide moratorium ends on Thursday. The Jazz would then have three days to decide whether to match it.
Based on past indications regarding Hayward, keeping him as part of the Jazz’s young core moving forward together would essentially be an automatic for Utah. The actual details when the contract came, though, could give the small-market front office pause. That’s especially true when considering the average of $15.75 million a season for a player with declining accuracy along with, according to Yahoo!, a trade kicker and an option for Hayward on the final season.
A year after Al Jefferson got three years and $40.5 million from Charlotte to leave the Utah front line as an unrestricted free agent — although the Jazz didn’t have nearly the long-term plan with Jefferson as they now do with Hayward — and decades after player Michael Jordan won back-to-back championships at Utah’s expense, owner Michael Jordan has come hard at the Jazz again.