Gordon Hayward has been a popular name among the NBA trade rumor circle for a few weeks now. He has a player option worth $34 million that he was supposed to decide upon today. It felt very likely he would opt in to remain with the Boston Celtics because nobody else is going to pay him over $30 million after three injury-riddled seasons in Boston. But while the moniker has not been very accurate over the last two years, GM Danny Ainge became known as Trader Danny for a reason.
Kevin O'Conner of The Ringer reported that Ainge offered Hayward and three first-rounders for Jrue Holiday before the Pelicans guard was sent to Milwaukee for a massive haul. Hayward remains an attractive trade option despite the injuries because he can do everything on both ends of the court for any team. Now, Boston and Hayward are negotiating to push back the decision date on his player option to after the draft. This seems to indicate Boston is trying to trade Hayward. Why? Because if he knew for a fact he was staying in Boston this year, he would have opted in already.
But by pushing back the due date on the option, Boston can trade Hayward and then he has the freedom to evaluate the landscape of his next team and see if he should stick with the $34 million this year or opt out to sign an extension to secure long-term security. So, with that in mind, here are four potential destinations for Hayward.
This seems to be the most likely trade partner for Boston. Atlanta has the No. 6 pick in the draft, and while Boston doesn't need to add another pick onto the three they already have this year, it would be helpful in the pursuit of packaging all those picks for either a player or a jump up into the top-5. It would require a third team to get the salaries to match, because Atlanta won't be inclined to give up someone like De'Andre Hunter for Hayward, but Boston could secure the sixth overall pick and get Hayward's money off the books to make a move. Hayward would help stabilize Atlanta in the minutes Trae Young rests and push for the playoffs, which is the Hawks' goal at this stage of the rebuild.
The next-most likely team to deal with Ainge, the Pacers would welcome back Butler alumni Hayward with open arms. Boston needs a more reliable center and Myles Turner would be an excellent fit both money-wise and positionally. Throw in Doug McDermott and a bench player of your choice from the Pacers and that's a trade package that works on the trade machine. It makes a lot of sense for both teams-- Indiana needs to decide between Domantas Sabonis and Turner soon, Boston gets an answer at center, and both teams would be happy.
LET'S GET WEIRD. James Harden reportedly wants out. Boston could trade theoretically trade Hayward for Harden straight-up and the numbers would work. Obviously, that won't happen, but with money out of the way, Boston could add their three first-rounders in this draft and every pick they have in the next two years along with Rob Williams, Romeo Langford, and Grant Williams to make a fairly attractive offer for The Beard. This is the kind of blockbuster deal that never makes it past this post, but it would be crazy and it's not entirely out of the realm of possibility.
Oklahoma City Thunder
This would make sense for OKC as another veteran acquisition to keep the team winning while they develop their young talent. Steven Adams' monster salary and a bench player would work in terms of matching salary for Hayward. Boston could flip OKC their No. 14 pick in this year's draft so they could draft an Adams replacement, and maybe OKC could send one of their less-heralded first round picks to Boston to seal the deal. They have about a million of them, so they probably wouldn't miss it. Boston gets a stolid, reliable center to fill in alongside Daniel Theis and Robert Williams. As a Celtics fan, I like this deal the best. Adams' value isn't so high that Boston would need to throw in a young player to entice the Thunder, and OKC would love to work towards another five-seed with Hayward as Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Lu Dort come along.