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Utah Jazz swingman Gordon Hayward and Phoenix Suns guard Eric Bledsoe, two players widely considered strong contenders to receive contract extensions before Thursday's 11:59 p.m. ET deadline, did not get new deals before the buzzer sounded and will become restricted free agents in July.
Sources briefed on the talks told ESPN.com that after negotiating a four-year extension all month, Hayward and the Jazz could not close the gap on the final day despite a recent proclamation by Utah CEO Greg Miller that the "sooner we can get all that worked out [is] the sooner it's not going to be a distraction."
|Gordon Hayward and the Jazz, after negotiating a four-year extension all month, could not close the gap on the final day, according to sources.|
Suns general manager Ryan McDonough also said publicly last week that he was hopeful of striking a deal with Bledsoe's camp before the deadline. But Phoenix, like Utah, has decided to take its chances in the summer, when both Bledsoe and Hayward could attract lucrative four-year offer sheets from other teams that will be more expensive to match than striking a deal would have been now.
First-round picks from the 2010 NBA draft had until Thursday night's deadline to score an extension or proceed to restricted free agency. The Class of 2010 wound up receiving just six extensions combined, headlined by the five-year max deals worth at least $80 million landed by Washington's John Wall and Indiana's Paul George, and by DeMarcus Cousins' four-year max deal worth at least $60 million in Sacramento. Utah's Derrick Favors (four years, $47 million), Milwaukee's Larry Sanders (four years, $44 million) and Memphis' Quincy Pondexter (four years, $14 million) received the other extensions.
Besides Hayward and Bledsoe, prominent 2010 first-rounders who were not granted extensions and thus will also become restricted free agents in July include Detroit's Greg Monroe, Philadelphia's Evan Turner, Memphis' Ed Davis, Boston's Avery Bradley and Sacramento's Greivis Vasquez.
In Hayward's case, sources told ESPN.com that the former Butler star was not seeking the four-year max but did push for a deal commensurate with his standing as the face of Utah's rebuilding effort.
The Jazz apparently needed more evidence to be sure Hayward can produce on that level now that he'll see much more of the ball in the wake of the offseason departures of Al Jefferson and Paul Millsap. But the risk there is that the highly regarded swingman -- admired in many rival front offices for his versatility, size and shooting prowess -- will receive an offer in July near or at the estimated four-year max of $62 million.
It's believed the Jazz are prepared to match four-year offers that Hayward attracts in restricted free agency -- even if those offer sheets are front-loaded or feature other deterrents such as an early termination clause -- but they were ultimately hesitant on deadline day to go beyond the $50 million mark, mere days removed from committing $47 million to big man Favors to anchor Utah's defense.
The Suns are taking a similar gamble with Bledsoe, who was believed to be seeking an annual salary of at least $10 million. It's understandable that Phoenix wants to see how Bledsoe fares in his first opportunity to really run a team before making a long-term commitment to him, but the dearth of point guards projected to be on the market come July greatly increases the possibility that Bledsoe will receive the sort of offer he's seeking.