Gordon Hayward is in talks with the Cleveland Cavaliers, according to reports, but if — and how much — the team might offer the restricted free agent remains to be seen.
Hayward was in Cleveland on Tuesday, the second full day of free agency. And there have been conflicting reports on the Cavs’ intentions regarding the 24-year-old swingman.
According to ESPN, Cleveland was preparing an offer sheet for Hayward, possibly worth the maximum allowed under the collective bargaining agreement. That would mean Hayward, as a fifth-year player, would start at about $14.8 million next year with raises that would make the deal worth $63 million over four seasons.
But Fox Sports Ohio, citing sources, called the reports “greatly exaggerated.” Another Ohio station, Fox News 8, called it “fantasy.”
The Cavs are one of a handful of teams with the cap space to offer Hayward the kind of money he is seeking, and it seems it may take a considerable amount if any team is to pry Hayward away from Utah. The Jazz have the right — and the space — to match any offer Hayward might receive.
And general manager Dennis Lindsey has said for months he expects Hayward back in a Jazz jersey next season.
If Hayward does sign an offer sheet, the Jazz would have 72 hours to match.
The Jazz and Hayward failed to reach an agreement on an extension last fall, setting Hayward up for his first taste of the market.
Hayward averaged 16 points, five rebounds and five assists last season for Utah, when he was thrust into the role of leading a young, rebuilding squad. Hayward shot career lows from the field and from 3-point territory in the process.
If Cleveland does not give Hayward an offer after all, there are still options.
But as free agency goes on, some of those will undoubtedly dry up.
Earlier Wednesday, one of Hayward’s potential landing spots seemed to disappear.
The potential reunion of Hayward with his college coach, Brad Stevens, in Boston had been rumored for months. But on Wednesday, according to multiple reports, the Celtics came to terms with their own restricted free agent, Avery Bradley.
Bradley’s new four-year, $32 million deal should be large enough to take the Celtics out of the hunt for Hayward, barring a sign-and-trade.
The Cavaliers, Suns and Hornets have also been rumored to be interested in Hayward’s services.