The latest comes in the form of a pair of suggestions from NBC Sports’ Chris Forsberg, who debates what the Celtics could do with forward Gordon Hayward should he decide to opt in on the final year (and $34.7 million) of his contract in Boston. Hayward can’t be dealt until he makes a decision on the option, but it is almost certain that he will opt in.
It is unlikely that the Celtics will move Hayward. But they could make some hay with the roster if they did.
— Adam Kaufman (@AdamMKaufman) October 10, 2020
The first option is an intriguing swing at a big-time star player whose health has cost him much of his recent career—Pistons forward Blake Griffin.
The Celtics would be on the hook for the last two years of Griffin’s deal if they shipped out Hayward for him. Griffin is slated to make $36.6 million next year and has an option for $39 million the following year. That is an awful lot to pay a guy who played only 18 games this year. He did manage 75 games last season, and made the All-Star team, but had missed at least 15 games for each of the last four seasons before that.
When healthy, though, Griffin is a fearsome option at the power forward spot. He has played a bit of center in his career, too, which would make him an intriguing small-ball option for Boston. In 75 games in 2018-19, he averaged 24.5 points, 7.5 rebounds and 5.4 assists.
Gordon Hayward Trade for Nikola Vucevic?
Forsberg also mentioned the possibility that the Celtics could, “Call the Magic about Nikola Vucevic, who has three years left but at a descending value and try to convince them their best path forward is to shake up their own core.”
Vucevic would be a more traditional fit at center for a team that had trouble filling the spot in the middle over the course of this season. He is signed for two more seasons, but on a descending contract that goes from $24 million next year to $22 million in 2022-23. The Celtics would need to take on another player, like Al-Farouq Aminu, to make such a deal work and would surely need to add some combination of young players and draft picks.
Vucevic is a weak defensive center—that might be enough to scare off the Celtics—who is versatile offensively. He averaged 19.6 points, 10.9 rebounds and 3.6 assists last year. He has some potential as a 3-point shooter but only made 33.9% from the arc last season.
Gordon Hayward: Miami Heat Target in 2021?
Hayward could be a free agent this summer if he does not pick up his option, but it is unlikely he would find a contract starting at more than the $34.7 million on his current deal. But that sets up Hayward for free agency next year and the Celtics risk losing him with no return in 2021.
Hayward was signed as a star wing but a series of injuries—including a gruesome ankle injury in his first game as a Celtic—has dampened his role with the team, as has the ascension of Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum to their own stardom. It has been difficult to find a comfortable place in a lineup with Tatum and Brown, players of similar size and position.
It would not be a surprise to see Hayward play out next year with the Celtics, then hit free agency, possibly winding up with the team that eliminated Boston from this year’s playoffs—the Heat.
Hayward nearly signed with the Heat in 2017 before ultimately choosing the Celtics. Soon after that, he recalled meeting with the Heat and seeing a team video, speaking to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski:
“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.”
On free agency process that brought him to Boston: Riles/Spo, Jazz, West vs East. Gordon Hayward joins Woj Pod. https://t.co/zXFOYJG5vt
— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) July 24, 2017