Jedi Mindtricks – The Almighty Dollar

Jedi Mindtricks … Opinions from a certain point of view

The almighty dollar – to pay or not to pay?

Max contracts, in the NBA, are usually reserved for the exceptional or above average, the game changer and best player on the team. The Utah Jazz paid top dollar to keep one, Gordon Hayward in the off-season. They followed that up with paying a moderate contract to keep Alec Burks. Many have argued that paying that much for Hayward was a mistake,  “he isn’t a max player.” While others have reservations at paying so much for a “sixth man,” Alec Burks.

I’ve taken an opportunity this year to watch little nuances of the game more than I have in previous seasons. For example – player’s body language, what the coach is doing, the intricate details of the offense, what a player does when he doesn’t have the ball, timeouts and more.

Enter exhibit A – Alec Burks has been more rigid on the floor this year. Last season, he moved about with agility and confidence. He didn’t hesitate or overthink. This year, he is intentionally more precise in his movement, and is uncomfortable. He processes what he is about to do before making his move. At times, it appears very unnatural to him. There is a disconnect in his game. I’ll have more on this at a future time. With the recent news regarding Burks, we will have to wait til next season to see where his development takes him.

What about Hayward?

Gordon Hayward is the best player on the Utah Jazz. He just is. The question is whether he is worth the maximum contract he signed in the off-season. He may not have been at the time, but he’s making a case for it now. He leads the team in scoring, is the team captain, and leads by example while on the floor. Quin Snyder has indicated that he “challenge(s) Gordon more than anybody” and holds him to a higher standard. What does that say about the coach’s opinion and position on the matter?

Ravell Call, Deseret News
Ravell Call, Deseret News

Hayward swells with confidence and reads the floor well. His court vision is at an all time high. He sees plays develop, picks just the right moment to swing or attack the defender, and recognizes an opening without hesitation. The most recent instance might be one of his three assists (see the second video) against the Minnesota Timberwolves. These are all signs of a great player. They aren’t qualities of an average role player, rather inate abilities found in stars. What intrigues me even more, is his ability to adjust, morph and evolve based on circumstances.

“To be more of a communicator on the backside has been huge for me,” Hayward said. “A lot of times, I’m on the weak side and I can see the whole floor. So I’m just really trying to make sure I get guys in the right spots and then trying to make sure I’m still engaged even if I’m not in the play.” – Snyder challenges Hayward to step up on D | The Salt Lake Tribune

Everyone points to the big shot he hit in the Cleveland game. Huge – but anyone can hit that, right? Sundiata Gaines did it years before. That’s just one moment. With Hayward, there are other moments.

For example, the Jazz, having been in control for the better part of the third quarter against San Antonio, found themselves reeling back as the jugernaut Spurs came at them with a fury in the fourth quarter. Tim Duncan had begun to exert himself and his will onto the game. A moment, late in the game – Duncan was heading to the free throw line. Hayward saw this as an opportunity and called his teammates around him. A simple gesture of communication. But it was more – a call to rally the troops. The Jazz went on to win the game.

What about the final game of a brutal six game road trip? The Jazz put up a lack-luster performance against the lowly Charlotte Hornets two nights earlier and now faced the undaunting task of playing an elite Memphis Grizzlies team. How did they respond? With one of their best, most gritty fourth quarter performances in recent memory. The charge was led by Hayward and Burks. Both coming through in the clutch to carry the team to a much needed victory.

Hayward’s instincts as a basketball player have evolved, a sign of maturity. As such, it stands to reason that he needs to be paid. The Jazz took a chance – or Charlotte did and Utah matched. The dividends are paying off. The wins aren’t there yet. They will be. You can bet on it.

Paying Hayward may have been the best thing the Jazz did. They have secured a portion of their future and made a statement as such. Now the coach can focus on the development and maturity of the team, while molding HIS star.

I’ll be watching closely, the relationship of Snyder and Hayward going forward. John Stockton was an extension of Jerry Sloan on the floor for the better part of two decades. Will Hayward and Snyder exist in the same symbiotic relationship and will it produce similar results? One can only hope.

Overpaid? Not when the big picture is analyzed. You’ll find, in the end, that the money was and is right. The Jazz have secured their foundation and their future. They did it with John, Karl Malone and Jerry Sloan, and are doing it with Snyder, Hayward, Favors and Burks.

The makeup is the same, just a different cast.


***The views and opinions posted are those of the author and do not reflect the views of TornBySports in anyway.

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Jedi Mindtricks is a weekly opinion column by Alan “Jedi” Zaugg

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About the author

Alan "Jedi" Zaugg

Alan “Jedi” Zaugg is managing editor of TornBySports and co-host of the Jedi & Jerms podcast. He’s an avid NBA fan and passionate sports enthusiast. Additionally he co-hosts a Star Wars podcast (Idiot's Array), writes fantasy and science fiction, and some poetry, in his spare time. Follow him on Twitter: @jedizaugg.