Why Did the Hornets Give Gordon Hayward $30 Million a Year?

Gordon Hayward
Gordon Hayward / Maddie Meyer/Getty Images

Eyebrows were raised around the TBL staff when Gordon Hayward opted out of the final year of his contract with the Boston Celtics. In opting out, he gave up $34 million guaranteed. It turns out that Hayward did, in fact, know what he was doing. On Saturday, he secured a long-term financial commitment from the Charlotte Hornets with only a very slight pay decrease as he signed a four-year deal worth $120 million.

Well, good for Hayward for securing the bag despite serious doubts from everybody that he would be able to get a deal like that on the open market. But what on earth is Michael Jordan and Charlotte thinking by giving him that much?

Hayward's injury luck in Boston was unbelievably bad. Everybody knows about the horrific leg injury he suffered mere minutes into his first year as a Celtic. But every time he started getting momentum after that, he suffered some kind of minor injury that derailed all his progress. The 2019-20 season was especially tough in that regard. He played very well for the Celtics in the fall, then promptly broke his hand and missed a month. Just as he was recovered from that, the season was postponed as he and everybody else went four months without playing organized basketball. He looked great in the bubble... Until he sprained his ankle after landing on someone's foot in the first round of the playoffs.

The fact that Hayward didn't miss any significant time due to injury as a member of the Utah Jazz suggests he isn't snake-bitten, as it were. He isn't one of those athletes who can't stay healthy at any point. But even at full health, Hayward isn't a $30 million-per-year player. He's good at a lot and elite at nothing. He's an above-average passer, shot 38 percent from deep, and is a good defender. Extremely versatile and all that. But thirty million dollars a year for the next four years?

The Hornets are clearly sick and tired of picking in the lottery. They selected LaMelo Ball in this year's draft and, with this signing, clearly believe they can make a playoff push at the bottom of the East at a minimum. But Hayward is, at most, a player who will average 20 points, five assists, and six to seven rebounds per game. That's good! But not worth investing $120 million in over the next four years.

Hayward will probably work out better than the last big Hornets signing, which was Nic Batum. But his recent injury history and his relatively low ceiling for a "star" player make this a questionable deal.