For the first time since joining the Boston Celtics, Gordon Hayward will return to Utah to play his former team.
Hayward spent eight seasons with the franchise that selected him with the No. 9 pick in the 2010 NBA Draft. He developed into an All-Star in Utah and helped turn the Jazz into the Western Conference powerhouse you see today.
With all of that success, a fun alternative to think about is what position the Jazz would be in had Hayward decided to sign an extension in the summer of 2017 instead of taking his talents to the East Coast. There are plenty of possible outcomes, but there are three in particular that come to mind.
The Jazz would be a serious postseason threat
The Jazz were a popular pick to finish near the top of the Western Conference heading into this season, so imagine how good this team would've been with an established player in the backcourt who averaged an efficient 21.9 points, 5.4 rebounds and 3.5 assists per game the last time we saw him at full strength.
It's not as though Hayward staying in Utah would've necessarily prevented them from having the same team either. The two starters who weren't on the roster in Hayward's last season - Donovan Mitchell and Ricky Rubio - were acquired before he made his decision to join the Celtics.
The Jazz were also a year removed from signing reigning Defensive Player of the Year Rudy Gobert to an extension that will keep him under contract until 2020-21.
The biggest questions would be Joe Ingles and Derrick Favors, both of whom signed extensions more recently. Would the Jazz have been able to keep both of them had Hayward stuck around? If the answer is no, would they have been able to keep at least one of them?
Let's assume the answer to that one is yes, giving the Jazz some combination of Rubio, Mitchell, Hayward, Gobert and Ingles/Favors. That group might not have the makings of a 60-win team in the regular season, but there's no denying they'd match up better with the Houston Rockets, Denver Nuggets and even the Golden State Warriors in the postseason.
There's just one problem with that theory.
Mitchell probably isn't this player with Hayward around
That doesn't mean Donovan Mitchell doesn't develop into one of the league's rising stars. It just means there's less of a chance he becomes a rising star as quickly as he has if Hayward was still in Utah.
Don't forget that Mitchell came off the bench in eight of the first 11 games of his NBA career. It was then when he became a full-time starter and Quin Snyder began to give him the keys of the offence, eventually leading to him handling the ball as much as DeMar DeRozan, Blake Griffin, Stephen Curry and Kemba Walker.
Hayward is versatile enough to play alongside another ball dominant player - the reason many were excited about his fit in Boston when he signed there - but he handled the ball enough in his final season with the Jazz to move Mitchell down on the pecking order, which would likely stunt his growth, at least in the short-term.
Plus, Hayward's presence would've made it more difficult for Mitchell to work his way into the starting lineup. He would've probably spent more time backing up Ricky Rubio, Joe Ingles and Hayward, setting him on a path to be more of a Sixth Man of the Year candidate than an MVP candidate heading into his second season.
The Jazz would probably be strapped for cash
Part of what makes the Jazz one of the more intriguing teams in the league right now is they're loaded with talent and they have significant cap space moving forward.
Utah has $117.9 million on the books this season, but Basketball Reference has that number dropping to $84.7 million in 2019-20 when the contracts of Alex Burks, Thabo Sefolosha, Ekpe Udoh and Ricky Rubio expire.
It then drops to $60.1 million in 2020-21 when Derrick Favors and Jae Crowder become free agents.
While the Jazz might end up keeping one or two of those players, they're positioned to make some noise in free agency at some point over the next two years. That probably wouldn't have been the case had they signed Hayward to the five-year, $180 million extension he was eligible for in the summer of 2017 - assuming, of course, that one or both of Favors and Ingles was still on the team.
Whether or not they're better off with cap space or a proven star depends on how far you think a core of Hayward, Mitchell and Gobert could take a team.
Even though we'll never know the answer, it sure is fun to think about.