SALT LAKE CITY (CBS) — The Celtics want to sign Gordon Hayward, but they have to do a little salary housekeeping before they can make it official. Danny Ainge is undoubtedly exploring countless scenarios across the league in which he would move one (or more) of Jae Crowder, Avery Bradley, or Marcus Smart in order to accomplish two things:
1. Clear the necessary salary to sign Gordon Hayward to a max contract.
2. Get good value in return for whatever player is being traded.
It’s point No. 2 that I want to highlight amid the latest round of reports that surfaced Wednesday night. The Salt Lake Tribune reported that the Jazz and Celtics were engaging in sign-and-trade talks involving Gordon Hayward. ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski followed up that report by indicating that Jae Crowder could be a part of those talks, but did not address any other potential parts of the deal.
These reports had both Boston and Utah fans worked on Wednesday night. Jazz fans (and even some reporters) believed that Hayward owed it to Utah to demand a sign-and-trade so the franchise could get something in return for him on the way out the door.
The NBA doesn’t work that way, though. Sign-and-trades must make sense for both sides and the Celtics certainly are not going to gift Crowder to the Jazz just because Hayward is walking away for nothing. The veteran small forward is a crucial part of the C’s team and his contract (average annual value of $7 million for the next three years) make him a hot commodity around the league.
Theoretically, could a sign-and-trade involving Crowder and Hayward work? Absolutely, but there would have to be a lot of other moving parts involved. The Celtics are getting Hayward anyway, so he wouldn’t count as compensation (in their minds) in any hypothetical deal. The Jazz would have to part with some draft compensation and/or a cheaper player.
A 24-year-old Rodney Hood might work, but that’s an expiring contract who will be owed a big payday next year. Derrick Favors would fill a need in the frontcourt, but his $12 million contract would require Boston to send out more salary (i.e. Avery Bradley or Marcus Smart). Same goes for another veteran piece like Boris Diaw.
The only kind of deal that could make sense for Boston would be a Crowder and Bradley for Hood, Favors and Hayward-type swap, but even then it’s hard to justify giving up Crowder and Bradley for a couple of expiring contracts.
The league knows that the Celtics have to make a move here, but the odds are that some team is willing to pay close to fair value for one of the players Boston is making available. Unless Utah wants to play ball with an offer that makes sense for Ainge, this is a trade possibility that is going nowhere.
As Ryan Bernardoni of CelticsHub points out, the other possibility is that the Celtics do a smaller scale sign-and-trade with the Utah Jazz that allows the Celtics to shed enough salary (Terry Rozier and Demetrius Jackson) to take on a Hayward max deal. If the Jazz are willing to send an asset over for Rozier, that’s a more realistic scenario than a Crowder deal, but it’s unclear how much interest they would have in the third-year guard at a price. Rozier is a promising player on a cheap contract and like Crowder, he’s not going to be given away for nothing.
Ultimately, the Celtics will have to budge on one of these moves, but despite the rumblings, I wouldn’t count on seeing a Hayward sign-and-trade with the Jazz that includes Crowder.