Both the Boston Celtics and Gordon Hayward have a little bit of say in where he plays this season.
So, what’s the best route for all involved?
Hayward has a player option in his contract for the 2020-21 season. He’s in line to make $34.2 million next season before becoming a free agent, and it seems incredibly unlikely he’ll get that money somewhere else given how the last three years have gone for him.
From a pure dollars and cents standpoint, it makes more sense for him to opt in. But even if he does, that won’t necessarily preclude the Celtics from trading him.
Trading Hayward would be an incredibly complicated transaction. For one, the Celtics would have to find a team that could get his money under the cap. In all likelihood, that would mean a team has to send substantial money back Boston’s way. If the Celtics are getting a player back they actually want, let’s say a guy like Myles Turner or Domantas Sabonis or Victor Oladipo, then swinging a deal with so much money involved is way more palatable.
However, if the Celtics are taking on a bad contract (especially one that has term) just to get rid of Hayward, then that doesn’t really make any sense.
By the way, Hayward has a 15% trade kicker, which further complicates the C’s ability to move him. And if Hayward is to opt out, it would not be as though the Celtics miraculously have all this money to work with so they can try and sign another star. The painfully complicated NBA salary cap doesn’t quite work that way, but believe us when we say that economically it is better for the Celtics if Hayward stays.
But take finances out it for a second. The Celtics are a better team with a healthy Hayward. Period.
It’s taken him a couple years (for obvious reasons) but it seemed this past season Hayward finally was hitting his stride and finding his place in the Celtics offense. He was playing like the guy the Celtics envisioned him being when they signed him to that massive deal over three years ago.
Keeping him around adds so much more depth to the Celtics on the wings, which is imperative since there’s no obvious replacement for him on the roster right now. It also helps that he can serve as a ball-handler and run the offense, particularly with Kemba Walker’s knee issues.
On any given night, Hayward, Walker, Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown or Marcus Smart can be the Celtics’ go-to player. Having five options like that instead of just one or two is the hallmark of a team that historically has thrived for Brad Stevens.
So unless the Celtics are getting a return that they’re truly happy with — like one that brings a playmaking big man to Boston such as Nikola Vucevic — it’s better for the C’s, and Hayward for that matter, if both sides just see the final year of the contract through.