The draft is over, which means those projections now shift to free agency.
And one of the early predictions have the Miami Heat landing the player that many believe to be at the top of their list.
Bleacher Report says 6-foot-8 small forward Gordon Hayward of the Utah Jazz will sign with the Heat and become another foundational piece to Pat Riley’s attempt to build another title contender.
Hayward, 27, would fit right in with the Heat, adding a shooting wing who would benefit from point guard Goran Dragic’s drive-and-kick game and help spread the floor to give center Hassan Whiteside, the league’s leading rebounder, more room to operate.
Here is what Bleacher Report said in its analysis as to where Hayward will sign:
The smart money might suggest the Heat. Utah is a quality team mired in a wild conference, and Boston has a logjam at small forward, Hayward’s position. Miami has the weather, Whiteside and Riley going for it, with the team a star arrival away from becoming a serious contender in the Eastern Conference again.
Hayward is coming off his best season averaging 21.9 points and 5.4 rebounds while shooting 47.1 percent from the field and 39.8 percent on 3-pointers for Utah. And the Heat have about $35 million to spend in free agency but can increase that number by “stretching” Josh McRoberts’ contract, which would add $4 million.
As a seven-year veteran, the starting price for Hayward will be around $29 million. But because Hayward did not make an All-NBA team he is not eligible for a super-max contract. The Jazz can offer him a five-year deal for around $170 million while other teams can give him four-years for $127 million.
But that gap is not as wide as it sounds considering much of that $43 million difference is reduced during that player’s fifth year if he signs with another team. And if he signs with the Heat, the absence of a state tax reduces that margin further.
Miami will be juggling how to handle their own free agents James Johnson and Dion Waiters while pursing others. If the Heat land a max free agent then they cannot afford both and may need GM Andy Elisburg to work even more magic to fit in one of their own players.
The Heat’s main competitor for Hayward appears to be Boston. But like the Heat, the Celtics will have a lot going on early in free agency.
Boston still has not given up on acquiring Indiana’s Paul George, a trade that appeared close to being made on draft night. The Celtics also have been linked to Clippers power forward Blake Griffin. Griffin recently listed Boston, New York, Phoenix and Toronto as his favorite NBA cities is a recent interview, but not necessarily where he would most want to play.