The Utah Jazz reportedly views the Miami Heat as another legit threat alongside the Boston Celtics to sign free agent wingman Gordon Hayward, per NBA insider Marc Stein of ESPN.

The Jazz, who can lock up Hayward to a five-year, $200+ million deal, isn’t anymore as confident as they were before about retaining the All-Star’s service this summer.

Heat’s appeal to Hayward

According to Stein, Miami’s warm weather, no state tax policy and big market status could all play in as factors in Hayward’s upcoming free-agency decision. Obviously, the Jazz are much better team than the Heat right now, but the chances of coming out of the Western Conference is far lower (competing every year with the Golden State Warriors, Houston Rockets, and the San Antonio Spurs) than playing in the Eastern Conference, who might see the era of LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers end in this year’s finals.

Already have the cap space to offer Hayward a contract that pays a starting base salary of $30 million per year, the Heat can actually create more room to add another top-tier free agent big man this offseason by trading Justise Winslow, Tyler Johnson and Josh McRoberts, according to Ira Winderman of the Sun-Sentinel. Trading these players would free up around $23 million in cap space, which can be used in signing Serge Ibaka, Paul Millsap or the much affordable JyMychal Green.

The Heat would obviously compromise their productive bench from last season, but the deal could also leave them with a formidable starting lineup: Hassan Whiteside at center, Serge Ibaka at power forward, Gordon Hayward at small forward, Josh Richardson at shooting guard and Goran Dragic at point guard.

Stepping up if needed

Benjamin Meheret of the Deseret News believes Rodney Hood can fill in the void at the small forward spot in the event Hayward bolts out. He really thinks the 24-year old Hood is more than ready to produce big time numbers in extended minutes. The former Duke Blue Devils standout averaged 12.7 points and 3.4 rebounds in 27 minutes per game while shooting 40.8 percent from the field and 37 percent from beyond the arc last season.

Meheret added Hood would benefit the most if Hayward leaves since the Jazz can shift their focus on locking him up long-term. He pointed out that Hood shared the same career arc as Hayward and much better defender and shooter than the All-Star small forward. In fact, Meheret thinks Hood can turn into an elite 3-and-D player once he polishes his flaws.

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