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Free Agency Rumor: Celtics focused on Gordon Hayward

Can the Celtics add an All Star in free agency for the 2nd year in a row?

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Taco Bell Skills Challenge 2017 Photo by Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images

According to Adrian Wojnarowski (and just about every other NBA writer) the Celtics primary focus this summer is to make a strong run at free agent Gordon Hayward.

On the surface it seems like a perfect fit and the narrative writes itself. Boston is in need of a dynamic scoring option and Hayward can reunite with his old college coach. Hayward would not only solidify their attack in the immediate future, but he’s also young enough to grow with the Celtics developing young players and potential stars.

Need a refresher on how good Hayward is?

2017 NBA free-agency class: Blake Griffin, Gordon Hayward among top 30 free agents - CBSSports.com

His overall numbers look meager, but when you factor in the glacial pace that Hayward has played in under Quinn Snyder the effectiveness and impact of his play carries through. He can hit tough shots, spot-up shots, drive to the rim, pass out of the pick-and-roll, post up, cut to the rim and defend at a high level. He's never going to be a No. 1 player on a championship team, but he can be the best player on a playoff team or a phenomenal do-it-all second weapon. He's also 27, just hitting his prime.

Gordon has developed in Utah and by all accounts he’s happy there. The Jazz have a very nice core of young players and veterans as well. Nobody would fault him if he decided that he wanted to re-sign there long term. With that said, he’s going to explore all his options this summer - as he should.

Gordon Hayward's free agency will be story of Jazz offseason

"These opportunities don't come around very much," Hayward said. "That's why you hire an agent, to deal with this type of stuff. I'm sure he's going to go through all of the options for me, let me know what can happen. I know there's a lot of stuff that can definitely go down. So, once I sit down and talk with him, we'll move forward from there."

A lot will be made about how Utah can offer him the most money, largely due to the fact that they can offer him more guaranteed years with higher raises each year. Here’s the basic math.

If Hayward hits FA and signs with another team, he is eligible for 4 years/$130,290,000. That is a year 1 salary of $30,300,000.00 with 5% raises.

If Hayward becomes a FA and re-signed with Utah, he is eligible for 5 years/$175,740,000.00. That is a year 1 salary of $30,300,000.00 with 8% raises. Likely the 5th year would be a Player Option.

There was also a chance that he would have been eligible for the new super-max option allowed by the recently agreed upon CBA (designed to help teams retain their stars). However, when he didn’t make an All-NBA team (announced today), that option was eliminated for Utah.

How All-NBA Voting Could Help Celtics’ Odds Of Landing Gordon Hayward « CBS Boston

The former Butler star fell just short of a spot on the All-NBA third-team, so the Utah Jazz won’t be able to offer him the super max that could have been worth up to five years and $207 million this summer. Instead, they’ll be limited to 30 percent of the salary cap, just like his free agent suitors, with the added carrot of offering a fifth year (the Celtics and other suitors can only offer four). Essentially, with the super max off the table, Hayward has a lot less to lose financially by leaving town, giving the C’s and other suitors a more realistic chance of recruiting the swingman. Hayward has a player option for the 2017-18 season, but he’s highly expected to opt out and hit the open market this summer.

Now here’s where I wade a little out of my depth on the math, but hang in there with me. It may be that Hayward (and his agent) would prefer to sign a 3 year deal, no matter which team he signs with. By doing so, he’d be hitting free agency again when he turns 30, which would bump him into a higher max pay bracket. If you want better details, check out @dangercart and his tweets from tonight, including this one.

The upshot is that if Hayward elects to go with a shorter term deal, the near term difference in salary would be minimal and he could still cash in bigtime in the long term regardless of where he signs.

So yes, there’s a real, legitimate chance that Gordon Hayward could decide to sign with the Celtics this offseason. That would allow the Celtics to have their cake (keeping picks and promising young players) and eat it too (adding an All Star talent as a free agent for the 2nd year in a row). Note: There are moves the Celtics would need to make in order to free up the cash to give Hayward the max, but the path to get there isn’t unreasonable.

Will it happen? We’ll have to wait till July to find out. But with the way things have been going for the Celtics lately, I wouldn’t rule it out.

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