There are $34.1 million reasons for Gordon Hayward to stay in Boston next season — and that still may not be enough.
There has been some talk in league circles that Hayward’s agent was testing the waters to see if a longer-term contract with more guaranteed money was out there. Now The Ringer’s Ryen Russillo said on the most recent “The Bill Simmons Podcast” Hayward wants out of Boston but may not find a new landing place.
“I’ve heard Gordon Hayward does want out, but I don’t know if he’s gonna get the money. He’s not opting out of that huge number unless he knows he’s getting the deal.”
Most teams with cap space this offseason — Charlotte, New York, Detroit — are not going to spend it on a 30-year-old Gordon who is not on the timeline of their young stars and is not a player that vaults them into playoff contention by his presence.
Atlanta, a team reportedly feeling ownership pressure to make a leap into the playoffs next season, would make more sense because Hayward gives them a quality wing and secondary playmaker next to Trae Young. However, it would be a lot of money to lock in for years and the Hawks want to keep their flexibility to find players on Young’s timeline to build something long-term. ESPN’s Zach Lowe and Bobby Marks hinted at this Hayward idea in a recent podcast, but again left it as “buzz” around the league and conjecture.
The other option is to find a sign-and-trade for Hayward (or just a straight-up trade), but that also would be difficult to do. Indiana was rumored to be interested in a Hayward trade but the deal is not easy to put together.
Hayward opting out does not suddenly give Boston a lot of money to attack the free-agent market with — Kemba Walker is on a huge contract, Jaylen Brown got a big extension, and the Celtics are going to have to max out Jayson Tatum. Even if Hayward opts out, Boston would still have less than $20 million to spend in free agency (and Tatum’s contract doesn’t kick in for a year).
Most likely, Hayward opts-in and takes the money — $34.1 million is a lot of money even if your last name is Bezos. He’s playing for his college coach in Brad Stevens and the Celtics enter next season as contenders to come out of the East. Hayward may not love his role in Boston, but is the grass really greener elsewhere?