There’s so much uncertainty around the NBA, but will that stop Gordon Hayward from testing free agency this offseason?
Hayward is able to opt out of the final year of his contract and hit unrestricted free agency this summer. If he were to do that, though, he’d be passing on north of $34 million to play out the final season of the four-year pact he signed with the Boston Celtics in 2017.
But Hayward’s run in Boston has been bumpy. It started with a devastating injury, and he then spent Year 2 trying to find his form again. Although he’s been a solid player this season, he’s not the “star” many expected he would be.
So while Hayward’s market, as a result, likely won’t be as incredibly robust, former Memphis Grizzlies vice president and current analyst for The Athletic, John Hollinger, floated his admittedly unlikely scenario of the Miami Heat going after Hayward.
The team to worry about, at least a little, is Miami. Hayward nearly signed there in 2016 before picking the Celtics, and the Heat are absolutely in win-now mode. Miami can’t offer the same money in the short term — I project them to have $27 million in room, and that number shrinks if the current, pre-COVID-19 projected cap number ends up adjusted downward due to the ramifications from the shutdown.
So Hayward would be leaving $7 million on the table in 2020-21. Then, the rest of the calculation is what kind of contact Miami could put on the table. And in Miami’s case, the answer is likely zero. They want to preserve cap room for a 2021 run at major free agents, most notably Giannis Antetokounmpo. That means a likely one-year deal for Hayward; I don’t see why he would do that.
Adding to the case against Hayward opting out is the fact that the NBA season is on pause, and if it is shortened or canceled, there’s going to be plenty of lost revenue. That likely won’t bode well for players hitting free agency.