NBA Free Agency 2017: Rumors and Predictions for Gordon Hayward, Rajon Rondo

SALT LAKE CITY, UT - MAY 8: Gordon Hayward #20 of the Utah Jazz practices prior to their game against the Golden State Warriors in Game Four of the Western Conference Semifinals during the 2017 NBA Playoffs at Vivint Smart Home Arena on May 8, 2017 in Salt Lake City, Utah. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Gene Sweeney Jr/Getty Images)Gene Sweeney Jr./Getty Images

There’s still one major domino yet to fall during NBA free agency. The Boston Celtics, Miami Heat and Utah Jazz await Gordon Hayward’s decision.

According to USA Today‘s Sam Amick, Hayward plans to make his decision on Tuesday, exactly one year after Kevin Durant decided to join the Golden State Warriors on July 4 last year:

Hayward isn’t the same caliber player as Durant, but the Celtics could potentially challenge the Cleveland Cavaliers, with him, in the Eastern Conference. 

The Chicago Bulls waived Rajon Rondo, which allows the 31-year-old guard to find a new home for the 2017-18 season. He’s lost his luster since winning an NBA title with the Celtics in 2008 but still has enough skill to boost a contender or mentor a young understudy at the position.

What’s the latest on the prominent names still available on the free-agent market?

       

Ricky Rubio Attends 3.5-Hour Meeting with Gordon Hayward 

Three occurrences will highlight Independence Day: the Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating Contest, the first slab of meat (or veggie meat) ready to serve off the grill and Hayward’s free-agent decision.

The 27-year-old forward went through his visits starting with the Heat on Saturday, then to the Celtics on Sunday and back to his original club, the Jazz, on Monday. Utah acquired guard Ricky Rubio in a trade with the Minnesota Timberwolves, and he attended the meeting with Hayward, which seems like a designed strategy in luring the coveted free agent back in the fold, per ESPN.com’s Ramona Shelburne:

Apparently, having Rubio in attendance meant something significant for Hayward’s meeting. He flew from Spain to San Diego to assist with the Jazz’s pitch, per ESPN.com’s Adrian Wojnarowski:

Fortunately, Hayward won’t leave teams in total suspense for an extended period. Nonetheless, his decision carries major implications. With him, Heat president Pat Riley should be able to assemble a contender in a weaker Eastern Conference. The Celtics would stand as the only challenger for the Cavaliers. The Jazz would continue to build on their 51-win season from the previous campaign. 

After growing up in Indianapolis, playing college ball at Butler and spending seven seasons in Utah, it’s hard to believe the scenery in South Florida would sway Hayward. Furthermore, Miami has an uncertain pathway to contention compared to the other two teams.

MIAMI, FL - December 17: Gordon Hayward #20 of the Utah Jazz handles the ball against the Miami Heat on December 17, 2014 at American Airlines Arena in Miami, Florida. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using Issac Baldizon/Getty Images

Among the three clubs vying for him, only the Heat missed the postseason during the previous year. 

Paul George going to the Oklahoma City Thunder hurts the Celtics’ chances at landing Hayward. Together, they likely would’ve reclaimed the No. 1 seed in the East with a legitimate chance at playing in June. Secondly, how will the talented forward feel about co-starring with a score-first point guard in Isaiah Thomas?

Hayward will run into stiffer competition in the West, but he’s coming back to a 51-win team that brought in a top-tier ball distributor via trade. 

Prediction: Gordon Hayward re-signs with Utah Jazz

      

Rajon Rondo to Mentor Lonzo Ball in Los Angeles? 

The Los Angeles Lakers selected Lonzo Ball with the No. 2 pick, but the front office wants to bring in a veteran guard who can help the rookie develop on and off the court as a professional. 

According to Amick, there’s mutual interest between George Hill and the Lakers on a one-year deal, but Rondo lingers in the background as an alternative:

Toward the end of his career, Rondo may entertain comparable offers from a playoff contender. Assuming he doesn’t circle the wagons and sign with a familiar team on his NBA resume, he’ll play for a fifth club in four years.

Rondo has made one-year stops since Boston traded him to the Dallas Mavericks during the 2014-15 campaign. As the Lakers seek a short-term counterpart to Ball, the 31-year-old guard could sign with a veteran group in playoff contention. 

Under San Antonio Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich, we could see another mini-resurgence in Rondo’s game.

Popovich would likely allow the veteran guard to create on his own, and Rondo would have a heightened respect level for a five-time champion who’s led a perennial playoff contender for the past two decades.

Prediction: Rajon Rondo signs with San Antonio Spurs

        

Nick Young Has Multiple Suitors in the West

In today’s NBA, a three-point shooter will always find a spot on a roster. Nick Young comes off a season in which he logged a career high in three-pointers made (170). He’s a wanted man among teams in the West, per Los Angeles Daily News writer Mark Medina:

Ironically, the Golden State Warriors have an interest in adding another veteran shooter using their $5.2 million exception, per Wojnarowski:

It’s absurd to think the Warriors need more three-point shooting, but Young flashed as a quality on-ball defender during the 2016-17 season. Lakers head coach Luke Walton talked about the 32-year-old’s commitment on the defensive end during last season, per the Orange County Register (h/t Lakers Nation’s Ryan Ward).

“We put Nick on the other team’s best player a lot this year,” Walton said. “He’s done a great job in making them work. It’s not just the shooting we’ll miss. We’ll miss the defense, the energy he brings and the confidence he and his teammates get when he hits big shots.” 

The Warriors could feature Young as a two-way asset off the bench, but there’s a bigger need in New Orleans. After trading Buddy Hield in the DeMarcus Cousins trade, the Pelicans desperately need three-point shooting and will likely propose a better deal to land the 11th-year pro.

Prediction: Nick Young signs with New Orleans Pelicans

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