BOSTON (CBS) — If the Celtics look to deal Gordon Hayward this offseason, they have at least one potential trade partner, according to a new report.
Hayward is expected to pick up the $32.4 million player option he has with Boston, though we won’t know for sure until NBA free agency gets underway. The start date is still TBD.
But Hayward’s future in Boston is the biggest offseason storyline surrounding the Celtics, and it even if he does opt in, that doesn’t necessarily mean he’ll remain with the team. Now we’re hearing of at least one team that may be interested if the Celtics are looking to deal Hayward.
According to SNY’s Ian Begley, Hayward’s hometown Indiana Pacers are potentially interested in a trade for the forward.
“Something to keep an eye on once we find out when NBA teams can start making trades: some within the Pacers organization continue to have interest in trading for Celtics’ Gordon Hayward, per SNY sources,” Begley wrote Thursday. “It’s unknown what Boston would want in return for Hayward — or if the club is even open to moving him. Hayward, who starred at Butler, can become a free agent by opting out of the final year of his deal, worth roughly $34 million.”
Rumors of a potential Celtics-Pacers swap have been rumbling for some time given Hayward’s connections to Indiana. Hayward grew up in Brownsburg, Indiana, he enjoyed a great college career at Butler, and he and his wife still have family in the area. They also have a pretty big mansion a short distance away from Bankers Life Fieldhouse where the Pacers play.
Hayward is expected to opt in, because why would a 30-year-old forward with injury concerns pass up a $34 million payday? Chances are he won’t be getting a one-year salary anywhere close to what he’d make with Boston next season, though if he wants more long-term security, he could opt out for a longer deal — either with Boston or elsewhere. But he’ll most likely bet on himself staying healthy next season and play for one more big payday as an unrestricted free agent next summer.
If Hayward opts in but isn’t in Boston’s future plans, it would be worthwhile for Danny Ainge to see if he can find any takers this offseason — or potentially again at the trade deadline. The Celtics won’t receive any cap space freedom should Hayward walk away for nothing after next season, so Ainge would likely want to try to cash in on that trade chip if he doesn’t get the sense that Hayward wants to be here — or if the team is looking to move on from Hayward.
Despite his rash of injuries, Hayward has still been a solid contributor to Boston when healthy. His third season in Boston was his best with the team, averaging 17.5 points (off 50 percent shooting), 6.7 rebounds and 4.1 assists over 52 regular season games. He looked poised to have a key role in the playoffs but suffered an ankle injury in Boston’s postseason opener against the Philadelphia 76ers. He wasn’t able to return until the Eastern Conference Finals, when the Celtics fell to the Miami Heat in six games.
Ainge will certainly explore every avenue to try to get the Celtics to the next level in 2021, and given Hayward’s connection to Indiana, don’t expect rumors of a potential Pacers trade to go away anytime soon.