The 2013-14 Utah Jazz will be Gordon Hayward's team, if he wants it.
This, of course, is not a totally fair statement because it implies the soon-to-be fourth-year player might not want to take control of the team's leadership. The truth is, Hayward, 23, is all about winning and somewhere in his heart -- and his noggin, too -- he's willing to do what it takes to succeed.
But while it may seem unfair to wonder if he really wants to lead the team, it's a question worth exploring in the wake of a disappointing 2012-13 campaign that saw the Jazz come up short of making the postseason.
There were moments during the season Hayward when flashed his leadership potential, not necessarily in a loud or demonstrative way, but rather in the no-nonsense manner he went about his job.
Others - even the veteran guys who've been in the league much longer - took notice and followed, especially as the Jazz went 9-3 over their last 12 games.
But since coming into the league in 2010, Hayward has been mindful of his place, often respectfully deferring to his veteran teammates. This isn't exactly a bad thing, since chemistry is important and the balance in a locker room is often delicate.
Also, Hayward has wisely been true to himself during the first three years of his career. He is who he is and if he'd tried to bluff his way with a lot of tough talk and fake brashness, his teammates would've sensed it and simply written him off as a phony.
"I've never been an extremely vocal person," he said Thursday, as players gathered to clean out their lockers. "But when the time is right, there's definitely things to be said."
If now isn't the time to step up and speak up, it soon will be.
As the Jazz head into a summer filled with free agent possibilities, there are few certainties outside of Hayward, Derrick Favors, Enes Kanter and Alec Burks.
Of those, Hayward is the oldest and most tenured with the team.
Those other guys already look to him for leadership and in the coming months, others will too.
Hayward went through something similar playing high school ball in Indiana, where he led Brownsburg to a state championship and again as a sophomore at Butler University, where led the Bulldogs to the 2010 Final Four and a trip to the national finals.
He acknowledged there were moments when he realized he needed to step outside his comfort zone and get after a teammate. But he was also the best player on the team and the others paid attention to that.
Late last Thursday afternoon, after completing exit interviews with players, Jazz general manager Dennis Lindsey was asked if Hayward can develop a strong enough voice in the Jazz locker room.
Lindsey didn't hesitate with a response.
"He was just challenged to," he said.
Then he added: "Clearly, Gordon's a core piece going forward. I think he has a lot of leadership qualities, but he's a respectful guy."
Lindsey, who spent time with the Houston Rockets and the San Antonio Spurs before coming to Utah, put Hayward's name with the likes of John Stockton, Karl Malone, Tim Duncan, Tony Parker, Manu Ginobili, Hakeem Olajuwon, Clyde Drexler and Charles Barkley with regards to the process of becoming a leader in the NBA.
"They probably weren't the leaders they were early-career that they were mid-career and late-career," he said. "And that's out of respect to the veterans. But I think it's safe to say Gordon's going to have to grab our team a little bit like he did at Butler and say, 'OK, here we go. This is how we do things.'"
If Hayward isn't the best player on the Jazz roster, he's close. He does, potentially, have All-Star talent.
Because he not only possesses that talent, but the ability to make others want to follow him, the Jazz can indeed become his team.
All he has to do now is take it.