The Boston Celtics will begin their offseason with a ton of issues. First, is Kyrie Irving. As expected, Irving has decided to opt-out of his contract and officially become a free agent. That’s not saying the Celtics can’t resign him, but the odds of that happening are looking slim. Another issue will be what to do with backup PG Terry Rozier. After that, Danny Ainge must decide is it worth keeping Gordon Hayward.
Two summers ago, the Celtics pulled off what was supposed to be the missing link to a title run when they happened to snag Hayward during free agency. His presence, coupled with Irving, Al Horford, and Jayson Tatum was to be the kryptonite for the rest of the NBA. But that’s why the games are played on the court and not paper.
For the 2018-19 season, Hayward averaged 11.5 points, 4.3 assists, and 4.5 rebounds. All-around solid numbers but not what you should expect for a $32M a year player. The Celtics thought they were getting the former star of the Utah Jazz when in turn, they received Toni Kukoc.
Now, Ainge and crew must decide if Hawyard is worth the hassle. If Irving decides to leave, should the Celtics then turn the keys to the team over to Hayward? Interesting considering the Celtics could look totally different.
The fact that he has struggled since coming to Boston may be a telling sign of things to come. But what if it was just a matter of fitting in? There’s no secret that Irving is a ball dominant player. Once it does leave his hands, it goes into the post to Horford who then has a decision to shoot or pass out to the wings. Normally, this is where a player like Hayward will rise but with Tatum and Brown, Hayward has just become the third or fourth option at best.
With Irving gone and possibly Horford, this could be exactly what the Celtics and Hayward need.
If Rozier were to take the rings, that would mean better ball movement and the Celtics could easily see a bigger return on their investment. Does he want to be there and if so, is his desire to be the main guy still as strong as it was in Utah?
With the Boston Celtics having ties in rumors to Anthony Davis, the Celtics could have a core of just Hayward and Davis. Not a winning combination when you break down the details. Building a team around Davis is one thing but constructing one around Hawyard will send the Celtics down a path teams such as the Phoenix Suns and Charlotte Hornets can only understand.
He’s a good player with sizable skills but a leader on a team fighting for a title, he is not. The sad part for Hayward is, he appears to be a solid guy. In this case, he may have bitten off more then he could chew.
While with the Jazz, Hayward averaged 21.9 points, 5.4 rebounds, and 3.5 assists while leading the Jazz to two playoff appearances and one All-Star game in seven seasons.
There’s no reason to scoff at his salary as lesser-known and less productive players are even-keeled with him in terms of contracts. But he came to a city where the expectations are a bit higher. In Boston, you’re expected to win. Just making the playoffs is not seen as a major accomplishment.
Hawyard is in a system where the ball is shared more then it was in Utah. He’s fully recovered from his broken ankle. For Hayward, this may all be a mental issue. He went from attempting 15.8 shots per game in 2016 to 8.8 in 2018. That’s a huge difference.
With Irving possibly heading to the Nets, that will open up more opportunities for Hayward. And yet, Ainge is still known as a master of wheeling and dealing. This summer could be major for the Celtics. If Ainge doesn’t think Hayward is what he used to be or is expected to be, is there a team willing to take on his contract? The Celtics may not land another superstar type player. Their best bet is to call it for what it is. He’s not ready to lead them. He’s not a superstar and truth be told, he never was.