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Jazz Hoops: Hayward gets his max deal. Now what?
For NBA players, there's always the pressure to perform.
But some guys encounter more pressure than most.
Gordon Hayward? Welcome to the most pressure of your career.
Hayward - on Saturday - signed a max contract with the Utah Jazz, worth 4 years and 63 million dollars, a contract that significantly chews into the Jazz' cap space over the next few years. Because of Hayward, the Jazz go from great cap flexibility to simply good cap flexibility. Because of Hayward, the Jazz may very well have to make a choice between Enes Kanter and Alec Burks at some point in the next year.
But that's what the Jazz think of Hayward. They see a 24-year old 6-foot-8 guard/forward with the ability to score, rebound and facilitate the offense. They see a young guy - not yet in his prime - with the ability to take a significant step forward. They see a guy who can potentially grow into Quin Snyder's new offense and thrive with the freedom it will provide.
But now, Hayward must play like it.
There will be more pressure than ever to perform. There will be pressure from a fan base who widely thinks he's being overpaid. There will be pressure to make plays in the clutch. There will be pressure to increase his shooting percentages.
The last few max contracts the Jazz have doled out have yielded mixed returns. Andrei Krilenko's was a disaster. Deron Williams was once one of the top three point guards in the league. But injury and attitude made his exit acrimonious.
So will Hayward's max deal be better? Will be lead the Jazz to the postseason? Can he raise his 16 points, 5 rebounds and 5 assists average to - say - 20, 6 and 6? Those are the questions that beg to be answered.
Now, Gordon Hayward is a max player. Now, he must perform like it.