By Brian Robb, CBS Boston
BOSTON (CBS) — Utah Jazz forward Gordon Hayward will have a long list of suitors in free agency this summer, but one team has quietly emerged as a serious threat alongside the Celtics to entice the All-Star to leave Utah: the Miami Heat.
Marc Stein of ESPN.com reported Friday that the Jazz view the Heat as a contender to sign the former Butler star, and a quick look at the Heat’s payroll makes it easy to see why. With Chris Bosh reportedly set to have his $25 million salary come off Miami’s salary cap, team president Pat Riley has set up his team to have up to $35 million-plus in salary cap room this summer to target the likes of Hayward and other potential big names on the open market.
The question Celtics and Jazz fans are likely wondering at this point is just how attractive the situation would be in Miami for Hayward. The Heat have some big names under contract for the next three seasons in Hassan Whiteside and Goran Dragic, as well as a promising young supporting cast (Tyler Johnson, Josh Richardson, Justise Winslow), but there aren’t many assets to improve the team for the future beyond that.
The Heat traded away two of their next first-round picks already (2018, 2021) to acquire Dragic from the Phoenix Suns and they will be picking 14th overall on draft night after going an underwhelming 40-42 last season. How good would a Dragic/Whiteside/Hayward core be? That’s an above-average playoff team in the East without a doubt, but it’s hard to imagine that team’s long-term prospects would be much better than what the Jazz and Celtics have to offer, respectively.
Riley has proven to be a powerful recruiter in past years (look no further than the formation of LeBron/Wade/Bosh in Miami) and the Heat have a proven coach in Erik Spoelstra as well, so there’s no doubting that they will be a factor in free agency. However, unless the Heat make another major splash to their roster, it’s tough to see Hayward turning down a couple of 50-win teams for some warmer weather in Florida.
Brian Robb covers the Celtics for CBS Boston and contributes to NBA.com, among other media outlets. You can follow him on Twitter @CelticsHub.