Hayward’s Looming Decision to Determine C’s Free Agency


As we enter the NBA offseason, the Boston Celtics’ biggest questions surround former all-star Gordon Hayward. Hayward has a $34.2 million player option, which to most would seem like a no brainer to exercise.

It may not be that simple, however, as we saw a scenario just last offseason in which Al Horford declined his $30.1 million player option with the Celtics. This was a very unexpected move, but it did get Horford another massive contract with the Philadelphia 76ers. Could Hayward follow in Horford’s footsteps and opt out? The decision can alter the Celtics future in many ways. Let’s look at all of the possible scenarios with Hayward going forward.

Scenario 1: Option Exercised, Celtics Run it Back

The most-likely scenario is that Hayward exercises the option. In this scenario, the Celtics can run it back with the same core that earned them a trip to the Eastern Conference Finals.

The C’s were 37-20 with Hayward on the floor, but after just game one in the first round of the playoffs, he suffered a significant ankle sprain. He returned to a 2-0 deficit against Miami, but it was obvious he did not return to full strength. 100% Hayward is much more mobile and would have provided the Celtics with another playmaker. He did play through the injury, but an image surfaced with Hayward in a boot after Boston’s elimination, further proving he was not fully healthy.


Scenario 2: Option Declined, Signs extension with Celtics for less

This scenario could work out very well for both sides. For Hayward’s sake, opting out and signing another long-term deal (3-4 years) gives him stability. This could actually be the number one option for Hayward, because stability would be great for him and his family given his injury history.

On the flip side, this works in Boston’s favor as well. Restructuring Hayward to a $16-20 million per-year deal could end up being a steal. When fully healthy, he posted 17.5 points, 6.7 rebounds and 4.1 assists per game– numbers well worth $16-20 million. Another positive for the Celtics is that the smaller contract is a lot easier to trade if things were to go south.

Scenario 3: Option Exercised, But Celtics Deal Hayward

The next possible scenario is that Hayward opts in and the Celtics look to move him. The Celtics have been involved in rumors to ship out Hayward for some time now. The question is: What do you move Hayward for?

The most-common landing spots that emerge from rumors are Indiana (his hometown) and Utah (previous ties). The Indiana package would almost certainly involve Victor Oladipo or Myles Turner. This could occur in the form of an extend-and-trade, in which Hayward accepts his option and then agrees to a extension of no more than three years (including the year he has left on his current deal).

The Celtics could then ship him out, giving Indiana multiple years with Hayward. Should they strike a deal with Utah, Rudy Gobert highlights rumored packages. This deal would be possible with Hayward opting in to his player option and leaving Utah to handle any possible extension talks with him.

Hayward would undoubtedly be comfortable in both landing spots with his prior ties to the areas. These are interesting rumors that could make the Celtics better, but they would most likely require other assets. Hayward may get shipped out of Boston if Danny Ainge is serious about re-tooling the roster.

Scenario 4: Option Declined, Elects Free Agency

Man would this be an absolute nightmare for the Celtics. Hayward could decline his player option and sign a long-term deal elsewhere just like Al Horford did last offseason.

The difference? Horford leaving cleared room for Kemba Walker. If Hayward were to do the same, the Celtics would have some money, but it would not even be close to the $34.2 million Hayward would make. Replacing Hayward’s production for half of that price tag seems nearly impossible and the Celtics would most likely lose out on a player that can produce as efficiently as Hayward.

This is by far the worst situation for the Celtics, but may be the fresh start Hayward wants.

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