Overall, the three seasons forward Gordon Hayward has spent in Boston have been underwhelming. He shattered his ankle five minutes into his debut with the team, missed the rest of the year and struggled to get back to his old form when he did come back last year, when he averaged 11.5 points, 4.5 rebounds and 3.4 assists.
Things, it seemed, were turning around this season, when Hayward got back into the starting five, played an average of 33.4 minutes per game, scored 17.3 points and shot 50.2% from the field (39.2% from the 3-point line).
That level of efficiency had Hayward riding high heading into potential free agency year this summer. He has an option for next season at $34.7 million and while he won’t get a contract that will start at that number, he could secure himself a longer-term deal, much as Al Horford did when leaving Boston last year.
If that happens, one former NBA executive says there is one team to watch: Miami.
Hayward, of course, nearly signed with the Heat in 2016 before ultimately choosing the Celtics. He recalled that in 2017:
“After the video, he kind of talked a little bit. And that was the moment where you kind of do get some chills. And everyone’s wearing their ring, too, everybody on the staff was. And so that’s the moment where you’re like, ‘Wow, that’s really cool,’ an I-want-to-put-on-the-jersey-right-now type feeling.”
Heat Pitching to Hayward, Part II?
It’s possible that Miami could woo Hayward again, offering him a chance to get out of the shadow of Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown, and Kemba Walker in Boston and be the No. 2 option alongside Jimmy Butler.
As John Hollinger, a former Grizzlies executive who now is with The Athletic, wrote, Hayward and the Heat could be a match—though it is a longshot to happen this offseason.
“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 contract 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.”
Gordon Hayward as a Free Agent in 2021 More Likely
Other executives around the league have told Heavy.com that they expect Hayward to opt in for next season and become an unrestricted free agent in 2021. That way, he can be a worthy secondary prize for teams that miss out on Antetokounmpo, who is likely to re-sign with Milwaukee anyway.
But potential contenders like the Heat, Lakers, and Raptors will have money available for Antetokounmpo. That means there will be money out there for Hayward, too.
If Hayward does opt out this summer, the expectation is that he would do so only because he has a pre-arranged deal with the Celtics to rework his contract, reducing next season’s payment but adding more years.