In order for Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge to decide the direction he wants his organization to go in this offseason, Gordon Hayward is going to have to answer the $34.2 million question on everyone’s mind.
If Hayward were to opt in to the last year of his contract, it secures his future in Boston for, at least, one more season. Hayward wouldn’t be doing his proper due diligence in doing so, though, without checking out what’s available to him in the open market.
Hence, ESPN’s front office insider and former Brooklyn Nets GM Bobby Marks’ appearance on ESPN’s Zach Lowe Podcast, in which he suggested Hayward will investigate his options.
Bobby Marks: ‘He’s Doing ‘The Al Horford Plan”
Marks says he’s hearing Hayward’s camp will be looking elsewhere for a multi-year deal with hopes of cashing in on an unexpected offer.
“I think what his agent Mark Bartelstein is doing right now is canvassing the league,” Marks said. “He’s doing the Al Horford plan.”
Horford, Hayward’s former teammate, found himself in the same situation back in 2019. In the end, he opted out of his final year with the Celtics and inked a four-year deal worth $109 million. While no one’s speculating Hayward will be able to command the same kind of figures as what the Philadelphia 76ers offered Horford, Lowe says there’s enough buzz around the league that he can’t help but get the feeling that something’s awry.
“There’s some buzz out there and I can’t figure out what the buzz means,” Lowe said on his podcast. “The buzz that I’m hearing is like the smoke, the smoke indicating that something is happening. I’m not sure what’s up but I don’t think it’s a lock that Gordon Hayward is on the Celtics next year.”
Bobby Marks On Potential Suitors For Gordon Hayward: ‘Atlanta Is A Wild Card’
There aren’t a whole lot of NBA teams with enough cash to offer Hayward a two-to-three-year deal. But one team that came to mind for Marks was the Atlanta Hawks.
“I think Atlanta is a wildcard in this whole offseason here as far as adding guys, veteran guys trying to kind of accelerate the rebuild a little bit now,” Marks said. “And how does Gordon Hayward fit in there at a $24, $25 million number because they’ve got the cap space to do it?”
Equipped with rising young All-Star in Trae Young, a 20-point, double-double machine in John Collins, and other promising pieces such as Cam Reddish, De’Andre Hunter, and sharpshooter Kevin Huerter, the Hawks wouldn’t be an awful place for Hayward’s career to evolve. Atlanta would not only be adding a secondary facilitator to go alongside Young but it would also elevate the Hawks’ backcourt and transition defense.
There’s no telling how much the Hawks value Hayward at this point of his career, but for a team that wouldn’t necessarily be leaning on the veteran wing to be a top-two option, Hayward could turn out to be most valuable with the Hawks than anywhere else.