With NBA Rumors in full swing this time of year, lets’s take a look at one that could change the landscape of the Western Conference. Gordon Hayward informed the Utah Jazz Thursday that he will become a Free Agent. What this shows is that it’s not about the money for the sharpshooter but about winning a ring. But why? The Jazz won 51 games last season while ranking as one of the top defensive teams in the league. Is Hayward tired of waiting for Derrick Favors to get back into form? Does he feel that Joe Johnson will lose a step with another NBA season under his belt? There has to be a reason for a player to want to leave 51 wins in the Western Conference and money on the table. This is where the Oklahoma City Thunder should take advantage.
Russell Westbrook played outstanding basketball last season. So much so that he wound up with the MVP Award this week. But after averaging a triple-double for the year– what’s let for him to prove? He wants to win.
He wants to win.
The Thunder are constructed to fit Westbrook strengths, not his weaknesses and this is something Sam Presti must consider this offseason. Kevin Durant took the pressure off Russell while he was there but the addition of Victor Oladipo was the exact opposite. Westbrook was a one-man wrecking crew but he won’t need to be that in 2017 if Presti can somehow pull off a miracle and get Hayward in OKC.
Hayward is no Durant but he may be the closest in the NBA. Not too many players can be a threat from the perimeter and off the dribble.
Hayward averaged 22 points and 5 rebounds last season while shooting 47 percent from the field and 40 percent from beyond the three-point line. Those are Durant-like numbers and with Hayward being the top offensive threat for the Jazz that made his numbers that much better. Pairing Hayward with Westbrook will give the Thunder what they have missed since K.D’s departure– another weapon.
Westbrook proved that he could take and shoulder the load but how dangerous will he be in 2017 knowing he can look over his shoulder and see another player who shares his relentless style of play? This is what the Thunder were hoping Oladipo could be for Russell but he wasn’t able to fully live up to that. However, a three-headed monster of Westbrook, Oladipo, and Hayward could be enough to get the Thunder in as the second best team in the Western Conference.
The Rockets made a great trade to acquire Chris Paul but the Thunder with those three plus a frontcourt that features Steven Adams and Enes Kanter will be too good for the Rockets to challenge. You can also add in the fact that Westbrook will enter the year on a mission after watching Durant leave him and win a championship.
Hayward will have plenty of suitors but if he wants to win and have the freedom to be the player that he was with the Jazz– then OKC should be his top choice.