Will he, or won’t he?
Those questions loom over Gordon Hayward’s 2019-20 season.
The Boston Celtics forward’s four-year, $128 million contract contains a player option for 2020-21 worth $34.1 million, and the NBA community is keen to see whether he’ll opt out of his deal and enter free agency next summer. While Hayward hasn’t indicated which direction he’s leaning, two NBA experts, The Athletic’s Sam Amick and The Boston Globe’s Adam Himmelsbach, offered differing predictions this week on the 29-year-old’s impending decision.
Amick believes the “smart money” is on Hayward opting in to the fourth year of his deal.
“The two-year anniversary of Hayward’s gruesome leg injury recently passed, and here’s to hoping he can truly find his game again while — more importantly — remaining healthy,” Amick wrote Tuesday. “But after the way in which Hayward struggled for so much of last season while trying to pair with (Kyrie) Irving & Co., and with Hayward trying to fit into this new landscape with Kemba Walker in tow now, the smart money is on him focusing on a continued revival before cashing in that massive option next summer.”
However, Himmelsbach predicts Hayward will do “what Al Horford didn’t.”
” … (Hayward) is in line to have a bounce-back season, but it won’t quite be an All-Star-caliber season,” Himmelsbach wrote Wednesday. “This summer he will opt out of the final year of his deal and re-sign with Boston on a longer-term contract for a lower annual salary.”
How Hayward performs this season will be a leading factor in his and the Celtics’ respective approaches to his future. If he returns to the All-Star form he enjoyed prior to his 2017 arrival in Boston and subsequent leg injury, the team might be more willing to retain his services for years to come. If he resembles the unsure 2018-19 version of himself this season, Hayward could trigger his option with the understanding Boston probably will be keen to cut ties with him in 2021 or trade him before that summer.