All around the NBA, dominoes are beginning to fall. We are still more than a full day away from the league’s draft and four days from the actual start of free agency in what will be a big stretch for the Celtics. But the offseason has been marked by a small number of trades and, more importantly, a big number of players who have made decisions on the options on their contracts.
The biggest is in Los Angeles, where Lakers forward Anthony Davis has opted out and will be a free agent. The Lakers are expected to re-sign him quickly.
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Less certain, and more drama-packed, is the Gordon Hayward situation in Boston. Hayward has until 5 p.m. on Tuesday to opt out of his contract, but still has yet to let any hint of a decision leak out. With two days until the NBA’s draft, that has left the Celtics on pins and needles as Hayward continues to falter over the decision.
According to Mark Murphy of the Boston Herald, the Celtics still are not sure what Hayward intends to do and the feeling around the league on Hayward remains the same should he opt in and the Celtics seek to trade him.
As one league source told Murphy, “All I can say is that a lot of people want him.”
Gordon Hayward’s Potential Free Agency Will Dominate Celtics’ Offseason
Hayward’s decision will overshadow everything that happens for the Celtics in the coming weeks.
If he opts out and becomes a free agent, the Celtics can either re-sign him for more years at a lesser upfront price tag or stand to lose him with no return, as happened with center Al Horford, who opted out of the final year of his contract and signed with Philadelphia last summer.
If Hayward opts in, the Celtics can either move forward with him or put him on the trade market. There has been chatter—mostly unconfirmed—that Hayward wants out of Boston.
There also has been chatter that the Celtics will have interest in upgrading at center, one of the weak spots on the roster last season. Rudy Gobert, LaMarcus Aldridge, Myles Turner and Andre Drummond are among the longshot big-name centers linked to the Celtics, and the only realistic way Boston could make a deal for any of them is to have Hayward opt in, then trade him.
That could affect how the Celtics approach the draft, too. Boston has three picks—No. 14, 26 and 30—in the first round and the Celtics are open to trading some combination of the three.
Celtics, NBA Set to Start on December 22
The NBA and the players association has already agreed on a season that will begin on December 22 and will run for 72 games, in an attempt to normalize a schedule that has been knocked sideways by the four-month hiatus caused by the spread of the novel coronavirus pandemic going back to March. The league finished its season, with 22 of 30 teams taking part in an eight-game restart before undergoing a full postseason.
The Celtics lost to Miami in the East finals. The Lakers defeated the Heat in six games in the Finals, which ended on October 11. That sets up a bizarre return to action in which Miami and L.A. will have had just 75 days off before returning to action, while eight teams—the Timberwolves, Cavaliers, Hawks, Bulls, Knicks, Hornets, Warriors and Pistons—will have not played since early March.
The rushed period between the draft and free agency figures to cause some problems for front offices, which usually have about 10 days between the draft and free agency to reformulate their plans and arrange their priorities. Now, there will be only a matter of hours between the two.
Free agency opens on November 20, two days after the NBA draft.
And once free agency is worked out, it will be right back to the floor for all 30 teams—training camp will start on December 1.