Sometime soon, the #Stayward billboards are going to come down — for better or worse.
At 10 p.m. MDT on Friday, Gordon Hayward will officially become one of the most sought after NBA free agents. After the Utah Jazz learn the All-Star’s fate, they will either continue to build around him by acquiring supplementary pieces or look to fill a very big void.
As most teams do, the Jazz are preparing for the worst and doing their due diligence on players that could be available if Hayward exercises his option as a free agent and leaves Salt Lake City.
The following are some of the options that will be available for Utah:
Carmelo Anthony, New York Knicks
22.4 points, 5.9 rebounds, 2.9 assists, 74 games
The first move Phil Jackson made as Knicks president was signing Anthony to a five-year, $124 million contract with a no-trade clause. It was every basketball player’s dream — playing in Manhattan, making $25-plus million annually and having the ability to pick and choose where to play if a team eventually wants to get rid of you.
Two years later, the Knicks are desperate to dump Anthony, but due to the no-trade clause, the breakup will happen on Anthony’s terms. Anthony has outlasted Jackson in New York, as Jackson “mutually agreed” to split with the team.
Jackson has alienated Anthony and has inadvertently tarnished any trade value the 33-year-old All-Star had. If the Knicks can’t find a deal for Anthony, they might have to buy him out of his contract and let him walk as a free agent, which is what Anthony’s camp is pushing for.
Anthony isn’t a franchise player anymore, but he doesn’t need to be. The Jazz already have their foundational piece in Rudy Gobert. They just need someone who can produce points on a nightly basis and perhaps add some much-needed star power. Anthony can do both.
Because he’s never won a championship or come close to it, fans and pundits alike have forgotten the talent Anthony possesses. Contrary to popular belief, Anthony doesn’t need to dominate the ball to be effective. He’s can space the floor as a catch-and-shoot player and would provide spacing as a small-ball four, creating room for Gobert to work in the post.
Anthony’s never played in a pass-first system before and some of that could be attributed to his stubbornness. But if Hayward leaves, replacing him with a scorer like Anthony would be ideal, especially since Utah would have the cap space it takes to sign Anthony if he does get bought out from his contract. At this stage in his career, Anthony might want to seek stability. The Jazz can provide exactly that.
Bojan Bogdanovic, Washington Wizards
13.7 points, 3.4 rebounds, 1.4 assists, 81 games
The Washington Wizards have extended qualifying offers to both Otto Porter and Bogdanovic. Normally, when a team does that, it means both players are likely to return. But the Wizards will prioritize re-signing Porter, who’s expected to get a max contract, and would have to cross the luxury tax line to re-sign Bogdanovic, which is something the franchise has never done.
Bogdanovic, 27, is an under-the-radar scorer on the cusp of a breakout season. After earning $3.7 million last season, Bogdanovic is coming off a rookie-scale contract and will get a deal that will pay him $10-plus million annually.
Last season, per-36 minutes, Bogdanovic averaged a career-high 19.8 points and 4.8 rebounds on 46 percent shooting from the field and 39 percent from three. Bogdanovic also led the NBA in free-throw percentage during his time in D.C., making 93 percent of his attempts.
Utah has an affinity for international talent and a team has yet to showcase Bogdanovic in its offense. When he’s featured, Bogdanovic can score with anyone in the league. Bogdanovic scored 44 points against the Philadelphia 76ers last season. He also led all scorers in the 2016 Summer Olympics with 25.3 points per game on 50.6 percent shooting.
Unless the Jazz land a star, they’ll have to replace Hayward by committee. Bogdanovic can make up for the loss in scoring, and the Jazz will have the cap space to pressure the Wizards into letting the Croatian forward leave the nation’s capital.
Danilo Gallinari, Denver Nuggets
18.2 points, 5.2 rebounds, 2.1 assists, 63 games
LeBron James, Kevin Durant and Kawhi Leonard have dominated the small forward position, making it difficult for players like Gallinari to get some shine. If those guys didn’t exist, Gallinari would be a household name. Instead, he’s a second-tier small forward who will be many teams’ backup option once they miss out on Hayward. Last month, Gallinari declined the final year of his contract and became an unrestricted free agent.
Denver, led by big man Nikola Jokic, went from being a bottom feeder to a team with a surprisingly bright future. Gallinari, 28, has entered the prime of his career and might not be a fit for the rebuilding Nuggets, who seem to be looking for a young player with significant upside at every position.
Offensively, Gallinari can do it all — kind of like a poor man’s version of Hayward. He can create for himself, does a solid job of distributing the ball for a 6-10 wing and can take over games with 3-point shooting. Gallinari isn’t the most impactful defender, but could be hidden on a team with steady defense.
Gallinari’s biggest issue has been health. He missed the entire 2013-14 season with a torn ACL and has averaged 58 games per season over the last three years, missing action due to various ailments, including an ankle injury that kept him out of the last 22 games of the season in 2016.
Even with his injury plagued history, Gallinari won’t come at a discount. There are going to be plenty teams calling his phone after they miss on Hayward, Blake Griffin and the other top free agents. Someone’s going to gamble on Gallinari and if it works out, “The Rooster’s” new team could hit a jackpot.
Andre Iguodala, Golden State Warriors
7.6 points, 4.0 rebounds, 3.4 assists, 76 games
Durant and Stephen Curry are both free agents, but will almost certainly re-sign with the Warriors and become the highest paid players in the team’s history. The Warriors aren’t strangers to the luxury tax, but it might be more economically prudent to let Andre Iguodala walk this off-season.
Iguodala, 33, has to make a career-altering decision this summer. He can either take less money and re-sign with the Warriors to compete for a championship for the remainder of his playing days, or he can take more money to sign with a less competitive team. Right now, it looks like Iguodala will be looking at the latter.
The Jazz are among the eight teams expected to reach out to Iguodala once free agency begins.
As the 2015 NBA finals MVP, former All-Defensive first team recipient and All-Star, Iguodala has a lot to offer, particularly defensively. The Warriors have been atop the league in defensive efficiency since they signed Iguodala in 2013. He’s one of the only players in the NBA that can somewhat contain LeBron. His passing and athleticism on the break make him a low-key threat offensively, too.
But do the Jazz really want to be the team to pay an aging Iguodala $20-plus million a season? Even if the deal is short-term, Iguodala is going to start declining soon. His impact goes beyond the stat sheet, but Iguodala isn’t going to become an elite scorer anytime in the near future.
For a temporary replacement, the Jazz could do a lot worse than sign Iguodala. He would instantly become the team’s best perimeter defender and can play a point forward role on offense. But the contract could become burdensome shortly after it’s signed. Whoever ends up signing Iguodala has to be cautious of Father Time.
Rudy Gay, Sacramento Kings
18.7 points, 6.3 rebounds, 2.8 assists, 30 games
Out of all the players on this list, Gay is arguably the most talented. At almost 31, though, Gay will likely never live up to expectations.
Once the face of the Memphis Grizzlies, Gay has become the poster child for “inefficiency” by analytically driven pundits. His tendency to shoot from mid-range and the post makes him an eyesore for people who swear by 3-point shooting.
But for someone who played for arguably the most dysfunctional organization in basketball, Gay had a productive season in 2016. He made 46 percent of his total shot attempts while averaging 17.2 points per game.
Unfortunately, Gay suffered a ruptured Achilles last season. Still, he bet on himself and opted out of his contract — either that, or the Kings were so bad that a player coming off a torn Achilles would rather not be under contract than play for them.
Gay could come cheap for a team willing to take a chance on him. He was having one of the best seasons of his career before getting hurt and if he could play at 80 percent of that level next year, the team that signs him will get a game-changer.
Gay shouldn’t be Utah’s first or second option, but if everything else falls through, giving him a one-year deal might be worth it.
Tyreke Evans, Sacramento Kings
10.3 points, 3.4 rebounds, 3.1 assists, 40 games
Tyreke Evans isn’t a point guard. He’s not a shooting guard. And he’s not a small forward. He really doesn’t know what he is and teams don’t either.
Evans’ lack of identity has definitely hindered his development. After winning the Rookie of the Year award in 2010 — Evans is one of the only four players in NBA history to average at least 20 points, 5 rebounds and 5 assists in his rookie season — Evans’ career took a nosedive.
Evans is OK at everything but not great at anything. His lack of a consistent jump shot hurts, too. But the finger could be pointed at the Kings, who’ve failed at everything for well over a decade. If Evans was in a more stable environment, he might be a star.
Signing with the Jazz could save Evans’ career and help him squeeze out some of his untapped potential. Evans needs an organization that values player development and the Jazz have been dedicated to player improvement. It’s not a perfect replacement for Hayward and he probably could be signed even if Hayward stays in Salt Lake CIty, but he’s a project worth constructing. Letting his talent go to waste would be a true shame.