CLEVELAND — Utah Jazz small forward Gordon Hayward, one of the NBA’s emerging talents, has become the next target on the Cavaliers’ offseason checklist.
The restricted free agent met with team officials Wednesday in Northeast Ohio, setting the stage for Cleveland to present him with a maximum-level contract that Utah would have three days to match.
Hayward is known to be coveted by Cavaliers general manager David Griffin, which is why the franchise is considering offering him $63 million over four years, according to longtime NBA writer Ken Berger of CBSSports.com.
Under the league’s collective bargaining agreement, Hayward cannot formally sign any contract until July 10, which also is the day that two-time All-Star point guard Kyrie Irving will ink his five-year, $90 million extension with Cleveland.
Jazz management has repeatedly said it will match any offer sheet given to the 6-foot-8, 207-pounder, but a max contract could prompt the small-market squad to reconsider.
The Phoenix Suns also are considering making a max offer to Hayward, who averaged career highs of 16.2 points, 4.3 rebounds and 5.1 assists last season. He also ranked 10th in the league by playing 36.4 minutes per game.
Utah selected the Butler University sharpshooter with the No. 9 overall pick in the 2010 NBA Draft. He has averaged 12.0 points and 3.1 assists over 287 professional contests.
Though Hayward’s status around the league has never been higher, his shooting percentages during the 2013-14 season were the lowest of his career. He shot .413 on field goal attempts, while his 3-point percentage was a poor .304 as he started all 77 games that he appeared in.
Hayward’s career percentages are .436 from the floor, including .365 beyond the arc, and .813 from the free throw line. He made $3.5 million in 2013-14 and received a qualifying offer from Utah worth $4.7 million for the upcoming season.
It is important to note the Cavaliers did not extend Hayward a contract while he toured Cleveland Clinic Courts, which preserves their more than $15 million in salary cap room — and their ability to woo four-time NBA MVP LeBron James.
James’ agent, Rich Paul, is conducting the first round of negotiations with interested teams before “The Chosen One” enters the process.
The Cleveland-based Paul has maintained a very solid relationship with the Cavaliers’ front office, but the decision — four years after “The Decision” — will be solely made by James.
Cleveland also will gain a small amount of cap space after shooting guard C.J. Miles agreed to a four-year, $18 million contract with the Central Division champion Pacers. The unrestricted free agent spent the past two seasons with the Cavaliers and made a team-record 10 3-pointers Jan. 7, 2014 against Philadelphia.
Miles’ presence will be sorely missed in the locker room, where he was one of the few players willing to hold himself and his teammates accountable.