Gordon Hayward must be out of his mind. The 30-year-old has opted out of the final year of his contract with the Boston Celtics, walking away from $34.1 million and entering free agency. Here's the thing: there is no possible way anyone will offer him anything close to that as a free agent.
Hayward signed a massive four-year, $127.8 million deal with the Celtics in 2017 and reunited with Brad Stevens, who had coached him in college. Just a few minutes into his debut with the team, Hayward landed awkwardly on his left leg, fracturing his tibia and dislocating his ankle. He missed the rest of the season and hasn't been the same player since.
Hayward spent the first seven years of his career with the Utah Jazz, slowly morphing into an All-Star. During his final season with the franchise he averaged 21.9 points, 5.4 rebounds and 3.5 assists in 34.5 minutes per game. He never whiffed those numbers again.
During the 2019-20 season, Hayward averaged 17.5 points, 6.7 rebounds and 4.1 assists per game for the Celtics in 33.5 minutes a contest. He also hit 38.3 percent of his 3-point shots. He still carries some value, but no one is going to hand him anything in the neighborhood of $34 million in free agency.
There has to be some underlying reason for this decision. Maybe Hayward thinks he'll get a multiyear deal at a lower dollar amount from either Boston or elsewhere and feels that long-term security is more important right now. Maybe he thinks he could become the player he was in Utah if he had the ball in his hands more. Or maybe he just wants out of Boston. It's more than likely he feared the Celtics would trade him to a terrible team if he opted-in and preferred to control his own future. Whatever the case is, turning down $34 million is certifiably insane.
We'll see what happens in free agency, but it's fair to question the sanity of Hayward's decision-making at this point.