The Boston Celtics really don’t need to swap one difference-maker for another.
Former NBA player and current ESPN NBA analyst Tim Legler urged the Celtics not to trade Gordon Hayward on Tuesday during his appearance on Sirius XM NBA radio. Legler believes Hayward’s return to form makes him too valuable for the Celtics to use a roster-bolstering chip. Legler instead advises the Celtics to build around the resurgent 29-year-old forward.
“He can help get you over the top,” Legler said. “We knew last year was going be tough, it ended up being tougher than we all thought. He never got comfortable mentally because of that horrific injury he had, so he was just getting his feet wet, and he had moments here or there.
“Now a year-and-a-half removed from the injury, he comes back and looks like a completely different player and he really was hitting his stride right before he broke his wrist. You look at the elements that he brings: his playmaking, his passing and his size, another guy that can get his own shot whenever he wants.
“Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown have taken a step forward but they can still be inconsistent. And you still don’t know what they’re going to do in a three-round playoff rush in the Eastern Conference.
“Gordon Hayward, I think they feel secure in what he is going to do now that they feel like he’s fully recovered from his ankle injury. I think they do believe that he is now going to be back to that level that he was at in Utah, which made them covet him in the first place, and now he’s a piece you move forward with. I don’t think you trade him.”
— SiriusXM NBA Radio (@SiriusXMNBA) December 10, 2019
Hayward returned from a broken hand with a bang Monday night, scoring 14 points with five rebounds and four assists in the Celtics’ 110-88 win over the Cleveland Cavaliers. He described his earlier-than-expected comeback game as a “good test”, and his performance suggests the fine form he demonstrated prior to his Nov. 9 injury will extend deeper into the season.
But Hayward might shine in the coming months amid speculation over his future, as some believe the Celtics should package him in a trade for an impact center.
Should the Celtics decide on that direction, they’ll go against the advice of Legler, who believes Hayward can be key to them challenging for, and perhaps winning, Eastern Conference supremacy.