One of the biggest questions surrounding the Boston Celtics this offseason is whether or not Gordon Hayward will return.
The 30-year-old forward has a $34.2 million player option for next season, but despite the money in play and the lack of cap space had by the rest of the league, it isn’t a sure thing. Especially considering the recent trade rumors Hayward has been involved in.
But could Hayward and his representation be following the lead of how Al Horford handled his own free agency when he tested the market and surprisingly turned down the Celtics?
Some NBA insiders think it’s plausible.
“I think what (Hayward’s) agent Mark Bartelstein is doing right now is canvassing the league. He’s doing the Al Horford plan,” ESPN front office insider Bobby Marks said on the “Lowe Post” podcast with colleague Zach Lowe, via MassLive’s John Karalis.
Lowe himself added: “We don’t know that there’s a Gordon Hayward chase. We don’t know that any of this is happening. I’m just saying that there’s a little bit of buzz … Something is mildly afoot here.”
Of course, getting a sense for the market would be beneficial to Hayward’s camp from a negotiation standpoint if he wanted to opt-out but resign with the Celtics on a different deal.
And in case he is convinced Boston actually did want to trade him, getting a feel for what teams are willing to pay makes sense so that Hayward could opt-out and at least decide where he plays next.
We’ll see how it all plays out once the NBA officially sets its free agency window. But first, the league and its players union must come to terms on a new salary cap.