After failing to reach an agreement on a rookie contract extension before Thursday's 11:59 p.m. ET deadline, talented young forward Gordon Hayward will enter restricted free agency next summer, league sources told Yahoo Sports.
Also, the Phoenix Suns and Eric Bledsoe were unable to come to an agreement on a rookie contract extension, and the young point guard will join fellow 2010 draft class members Hayward and Detroit Pistons forward Greg Monroe as three of the most prominent players in July's restricted free agency period.
Utah general manager Dennis Lindsey and Hayward's agent Mark Bartelstein had been seriously trading proposals for the past week, but couldn't come to terms on an extension, sources said.
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The sides never came close on a deal, remaining several million dollars apart, league sources told Yahoo. Hayward had been seeking a deal in the four-year, $50-million plus range, sources said.
Hayward will have significant interest on the market next summer and could command a deal in that range. Nevertheless, the Jazz can match an offer sheet and keep Hayward, which is the likely scenario.
Hayward is willing to risk the possibility of a severe injury this season on the belief that he can command significantly more as a restricted free agent in July.
The Jazz re-signed Derrick Favors to a four-year, $47 million-plus extension earlier this month.
Two teams with ample salary-cap space have head coaches – Boston's Brad Stevens and Phoenix's Jeff Hornacek – who have history with Hayward and think highly of his talent. Stevens coached Hayward at Butler University, and Hornacek was a Jazz assistant coach before taking over the Suns.
Hayward could get an early termination option and trade kicker as part of an offer sheet next summer, factors that will provide a greater level of discomfort if the Jazz match an offer.
Hayward, 23, remains a valued commodity for Utah, and he is expected to be a franchise centerpiece for years to come. The failure to reach an agreement on the extension is more of a measured gamble on what Hayward will command on the market next summer than it is a referendum on how the franchise feels about him.
For teams with salary-cap space, the belief is typically that they have to pay a player above his market value to have a chance of a team refusing to match an offer sheet – or offer the opportunity to deal for him in a sign-and-trade agreement.
Hayward, the ninth pick in the 2010 draft, averaged 14.1 points and 3.1 rebounds in 2012-13. His ability to post significant offensive numbers could suffer this season with the Jazz limited at the point guard. Rookie Trey Burke will be sidelined for several weeks with a broken finger, and Utah plans to use a combination of John Lucas III and freshly signed Jamaal Tinsley.
Bledsoe, 22, joined the Suns in a three-way trade with the Los Angeles Clippers and Milwaukee Bucks. All along, Suns management had planned to use the season to evaluate Bledsoe's value as a starting point guard in the NBA, sources said.
Bledsoe had been a backup to Chris Paul with the Clippers and will undertake a prominent role in the Suns backcourt.