In case you missed it this week, Bill Simmons had some interesting thoughts on the Celtics and Gordon Hayward. Sometimes Simmons throws things out there in a vague sort of way and you aren't sure if he's speaking from some kind of authority due to an inside source or if he's just tossing out his own wanna-be-GM ideas. So take with a grain of salt (or just assume this is not an actual rumor for the time being).
From today's BS Report - I believe Boston will make a big play for Gordon Hayward, either a Feb. trade or a restricted FA offer in July.— Bill Simmons (@BillSimmons) January 7, 2014
The connection makes sense, as we've covered before. Hayward used to play for Stevens at Butler and he's a rising star in the NBA.
Utah has made the former Butler product the focal point of its offense this season. To his credit, Hayward has responded by posting career-best averages in points, rebounds, assists, minutes and steals. Prying him away from the Jazz will not be an easy task and could prove costly for Boston, which would certainly have to offer a first-round pick to Utah to even begin discussions.
All of that is true, but all the extra touches and shot attempts has not helped his efficiency. His shooting percentage is down, in particular his 3 point shooting which went from 41% a year ago to just 31% this year. Still, we can blame that partially on the fact that he's the best player on a putrid team. He's the only guy other teams need to focus on defensively. Put him on a well coached team with other weapons and he could be a lot more efficient.
The Celtics have Jeff Green playing his position already (Note: it was pointed out to me in the comments that he actually plays a lot at shooting guard), but if they believe that Hayward has a higher upside than Green, then they would worry about what to do with Green after the fact.
Of course there are several other obstacles as well. For one thing, if they wait till the offseason to make him a free agent offer, they'll have to throw some big money at him to even hope that Utah will not match. In the process, they'd risk wasting their efforts and insulting Jeff Green in the process. In other words, they'd better have a plan B.
Another option is to simply trade for Hayward now. The Celtics have assets to offer. On the podcast, Simmons suggested the Nets/Hawks 2014 pick while Zach Lowe indicated that it would take more than that. Hayward is still on his rookie deal, so it would probably take another young player on his way up in the world. Maybe the Celtics would consider sending Avery Bradley and one of the picks. That would mean they wouldn't have to re-sign him in the offseason and in theory he's easier to replace than players at other positions.
I don't think the Celtics would trade Jared Sullinger under any reasonable circumstances, but if Bradley is off the table, I bet they could be convinced to part with Kelly Olynyk in a trade that's a clear upgrade. Also, if you want to get really creative, they could include Jeff Green and use expiring salaries (Richard Jefferson, Kieth Bogans) to balance the salaries out. Again, it boils down to what draft picks the Jazz want and what other pieces it would take.
Furthermore, the key aspect is just how much the Celtics are eager for Hayward. I don't know if Ainge would bet the farm on him simply to reunite his coach with his former protege. They must see something pretty special in the kid if they are as interested as some folks in the media would make us believe.
So is Hayward worth the effort? Is he worth multiple trade assets to acquire? Or should the Celtics hold off until the offseason and see if they want to make an offer then or get a read on the rest of the market?