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Utah Jazz: Gordon Hayward’s quest for All-NBA honors faces stiff competition

First Published      Last Updated Mar 17 2017 11:03 pm


Utah Jazz » He could earn a bigger contract if he earns a spot on one of the three All-NBA teams.

Chicago • It has been seven years.

It was Deron Williams.

That's the last time a Utah Jazz player made the All-NBA team.

Williams, a second-team selection, was one of the best point guards in the league, and Jerry Sloan still was coaching him. General manager Kevin O'Conner was charged with running the franchise, and a shy and skinny kid named Gordon Hayward was busy leading Butler on an unlikely run to the NCAA's national title game.

Much has changed since then. Williams is a veteran role player with the Cleveland Cavaliers, Hayward is an Al-Star and the Jazz are back among the better teams in the Western Conference. But can Hayward break a seven-year drought?



"It would be really cool to accomplish something like that," Hayward said. "All-NBA is something I never thought I'd be able to achieve. But right now my focus is on what I'm doing with the team. I'm trying to go out there and get wins."

The answer is more than cosmetics. That's because Hayward would qualify for the new veteran designated player exception that goes into effect in July's new Collective Bargaining Agreement if he makes one of the three All-NBA teams.

Under the rule, the Jazz could offer him 35 percent of their salary cap, rather than 30 percent, if he earns the honor. Hayward likely will opt out of his deal this summer and become an unrestricted free agent, and it gives the Jazz an advantage if they can pay him more money and give him more years than their competition.

Hayward won't talk specifically about his impending status, but he did endorse the new rule when it was agreed upon in December.

"It makes it easier for teams to keep their guys," Hayward said at the time.

So, what are his chances of making All-NBA? It's significantly more difficult to garner than a berth in the All-Star game.

Hayward is having a career season, averaging 22 points, 5.5 rebounds and 3.5 assists. But he will have robust competition at one of the deepest positions in the league.

LeBron James and Kawhi Leonard appear locked in for first-team honors. Kevin Durant and Draymond Green will figure prominently, along with Anthony Davis.

Assuming those five take up forward spots on the three All-NBA teams (there is a small chance Davis could be classified as a center), Hayward would be in the mix for the final forward spot. He would have to beat out players like Chicago's Jimmy Butler, Indiana's Paul George and Milwaukee's Giannis Antetokounmpo.

Hayward long ago earned respect around the league. But opposing coaches and players have gone a bit further this season. It has turned to admiration.

"He's gotten a lot better," Cleveland Cavaliers coach Ty Lue said. "He's always been a good player, a good two-way player who plays both ends of the floor. But this year, he's physically gotten a lot stronger. He's getting a lot of and-ones at the rim. He's dunking on people and finishing through contact, which he didn't do a lot before. I've always liked him. But he's put the work in and made himself a better player."

Each candidate has strengths and weakness outside of locks James, Leonard and Durant. Winning could work in Hayward's favor. The Jazz are 43-26 entering Saturday's game and are in control of the fourth spot in the Western Conference.

The Bulls, Pacers and Bucks all are struggling to qualify for the playoffs in the less competitive Eastern Conference. All three could qualify, but none of those three teams has approached Utah's success this season.

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AT A GLANCE

Jazz at Bulls

at the United Center, Chicago

Tipoff » 7 p.m. MDT, Saturday

TV » ROOT Sports

Radio » 1280 AM; 97.5 FM

Records » Utah 43-26; Chicago 32-36

Last meeting » Chicago won 85-77 (Nov. 17, 2016)

About the Jazz » The Jazz were without starters Derrick Favors and Rodney Hood in Thursday’s loss to the Cleveland Cavaliers. Their status for Saturday is still undetermined. … The Jazz need to go 7-6 the remainder of the schedule to win 50 games. It would be their first 50-win season since 2009-2010, when they won 53. … The Jazz have already clinched their first winning season since 2012, which is the last time they qualified for the playoffs. … Point guard Dante Exum is averaging 16.7 points per-36 minutes since the All-Star break. It’s the best such stretch of his career .

About the Bulls » Starting shooting guard Dwyane Wade will miss the remainder of the season with a fractured elbow. … The Bulls will be on the second half of a back-to-back Saturday night, after playing at Washington on Friday night. … This will be the first meeting between the two teams since Chicago traded Taj Gibson and Doug McDermott to the Oklahoma City Thunder for Cameron Payne, Anthony Morrow and Joffrey Lauvergne. …The Bulls are 3-7 in their last 10 games, including losses to the Memphis Grizzlies, Houston Rockets and Boston Celtics.


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