Dominos are set to fall in short order for the Boston Celtics this week between Wednesday night’s draft, the options deadlines on Thursday, and the opening of free agency on Friday. However, this week just got a little more stuffed with the detail that Gordon Hayward’s player option deadline is actually tomorrow (Tuesday) instead of Thursday like many other players.
Gordon Hayward has not decided on his $34.1 M option yet, and has until 5 p.m. tomorrow to exercise it. The Celtics have myriad options of their own to still consider. League source: "All I can say is that a lot of people want him."— Mark Murphy (@Murf56) November 16, 2020
This is massive for a couple of reasons. Instead of going into draft night with an idea of what’s going on with Hayward, the Celtics will have full knowledge of his intentions. Either he’ll be a tradeable 34.1M contract that the Celtics can either hold onto or trade on Draft Night, or he’ll be an untradeable free agent who’s set to either leave for nothing or negotiate a longer-term deal with the Cs.
This adds a lot of clarity for all sides (including the fans) heading into Wednesday, and the order of operations on this is a little different from the norm. Hayward and his agent are likely using this opportunity to find whatever leverage they can in this situation because as it stands, it would appear that the Celtics have more of the upper hand here. The language at the end of Mark Murphy’s tweet is really interesting, though, and likely indicates that there’s some sort of leak from the agent side.
“A lot of people want him.”
It’s not hard to imagine why. Gordon Hayward basically just put up his most efficient season ever while approaching his Utah numbers. Unfortunately, as has characterized his entire tenure with the Celtics, this past year was full of unfortunate timing with injuries for Hayward. However, Hayward has a lot to offer teams while not on a max contract. And even on a max contract, his expiring deal is attractive to teams that can’t outright sign him in free agency.
It wouldn’t surprise me (this is speculation) if one of these two scenarios was happening now: 1) The Celtics are working with Hayward to have him opt in and find a suitable trade partner that he’s comfortable playing for next season or 2) Hayward is opting in and the Celtics hold onto him all season. Scenario 3) Would see Hayward opting in with the expectation of staying and the Celtics shipping him away anyway because a great deal pops up in the heat of the moment, but it’s unclear how real that possibility is.
With the expectation of the flurry of moves that will happen league-wide in the next two weeks, it’s easy to get caught up in the desire to change. While some change is good, it’s also important to note that while he’s not max-contract good, Gordon Hayward is still a really great basketball player. Keeping him on the team this season would not be a loss in any way.
But, I’d be lying if I didn’t say that I am looking forward to the chaos that will ensue at some point between now and 5 PM EST tomorrow when Hayward’s deadline arrives. Again, buckle up. Let’s get weird.