I get this feeling of inevitability with Gordon Hayward and the Phoenix Suns. Sure, the Jazz say they will match any offer made to Hayward to keep him in Utah, but I still get this overwhelming sense of certainty that Hayward and the Suns want to make it work in Phoenix.
Hayward loves the city of Phoenix
[On his favorite place]: "For obvious reasons, Miami and Phoenix; L.A. We go there a bunch. Places where in the wintertime, you kinda just want some warm weather, those places are nice. I mean, you just kinda feel better when you walk off the plane and it's sunny. And you know, you get stuck in this cold weather and snow..."
Hayward misses Jeff Hornacek
"You know, he played my position, kinda went through the same things. Obviously, a really good shooter, and knows usually what was wrong with what I was doing or he would give me a little tip here or there. But a lot of times just working with me, working on the shot, everyday."
Hornacek loved working with Hayward
Derrick Favors, on Jeff Hornacek/Hayward: "Man, he worked with me a lot. I mean, he didn't work with me as much as he did with Gordon [Hayward] and Jeremy [Evans], but you know, I used to always go over there to him when he got done working with Jeremy and Gordon, and you know, just ask him for little techniques or whatever."
Hornacek thinks Hayward can be an All-Star
Before the Jazz/Suns game in November, won by a Bledsoe 3 with no time left, Hornacek was vey complimentary about his former protege.
Hornacek spoke highly of Hayward before the game. He compared Hayward's development with his own, adding that he believes the Jazz swingman is a year ahead of where Hornacek was at the same point in his career.
"I truly believe in a couple years he could be an All-Star in this league," Hornacek said.
Hayward's game fits perfectly in Phoenix
In Phoenix, Hayward would be the perfect small forward complement to the two-point guard system. Much like Thunder Dan Majerle in Hornacek's Suns days, Hayward is big enough to the play the small forward position and make a ton of three-pointers.
Under Hornacek's tutelage, Hayward made 41.5% of his three pointers in 2012-13 - better than any Sun did last year. Imagine the open threes he'd get with the driving Bledsoe and Dragic dishing him the ball. On corner threes, Hayward has consistently made better than 40% in his career.
Hayward can also be a third distributor. He averaged five assists per game last year, his best season ever, and has always produced a small handful of assists and rebounds.
Hayward is also a good team defender, which Hornacek expects out of his players.
But there's obstacles
The first and biggest obstacle is that the Suns would rather have LeBron James and are waiting patiently for LeBron to decide his next move. Until then, the Suns won't sign anyone big.
The next hit-you-in-the-face obstacle is his restricted free agent status. Any reasonable offer the Suns make to Hayward would be matched in a hearbeat by Utah.
So to get Hayward to Phoenix, the Suns would have to offer $2-3 million more per year than he deserves right now just to hope Utah chokes on the number. This doesn't seem like the Suns' style anymore.
Judging by what Kyle Lowry just got in Toronto ($12 million per year) and Marcin Gortat in Washington ($12 million per year), you can expect Hayward to get at least that much.
And if Hayward gets at least that much, then Bledsoe has to get that much too.
And if Hayward and Bledsoe get that much or more, then Goran Dragic will get that much next year.
And if that all happens, Hayward would have started a process that results in the Suns committing $36-40 million per year in their back court and wing positions. Not unheard of, but that's a lot of money in your "little guys".
Still, I think Hayward will very soon be putting up 20/5/5 on average and be a quality team defender on a quality team. He can be a #3 or a #2 on a playoff team. I firmly believe that.
If the Suns sign Hayward, they will have to make some hard decisions on the other guys. Maybe it's worth it to commit half your salary cap to three guys if they're good enough and have the right chemistry.
The awesome Mike Schmitz has created a scouting report on Hayward. Watch this thing. Please. Many of you have not seen Hayward play much. This is your chance to really find out what Hayward is all about.