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Gordon Hayward could be Celtics’ top free agent target

Following a clear dismantling in a Game 1 loss to the Cleveland Cavaliers in the Eastern Conference Finals, it has made quite evident that the Boston Celtics are still a notch below the defending NBA champions.

This has shifted some of the attention over toward what Boston can do to find ways to improve the roster to close the gap between themselves and Cleveland. According to The Vertical’s Chris Mannix, a big step in that direction could come in the summer with the pursuit of All-Star forward Gordon Hayward in free agency.

“I think this thing has to continue to grow organically. You still have to be aggressive but I wouldn’t go sell off assets to get better right away just for the possibility to get to the Finals. You are still trying to build this thing from the ground up. You mention the Brooklyn pick next year. There is a very good chance that Brooklyn pick is in the top three once again. The next step for this team has to be Gordon Hayward. That is a guy that can help this team immediately. That is a guy I believe is Boston’s No.1 target this summer.”

In the last few seasons, Hayward has emerged as one of the better players in the league at his position coming off his best individual campaign averaging a career-best 21.9 points per game. He is also the fifth player in team history to record at least three 30-point games in a single postseason.

What could make matters even more interesting is that the Utah Jazz wouldn’t be able to use the new “designated player” rule to offer Hayward a contract north of $200 million. The criteria for the deal would require Hayward to earn either the NBA MVP, Defensive Player of the Year, All-NBA First Team, All-NBA Second Team, All-NBA Third Team. In Hayward’s case, he fell short of earning a selection on any one of the three All-NBA teams.

Although he has only played in the league seven years, the only way he can receive a $200 million deal is if his picked up the $16.7 million player option for next season. It’s believed that this will only push Hayward to test the free agent market. The opportunity to play again under Brad Stevens, who was his head coach at Butler, could be quite intriguing to him.

At this juncture, the Jazz can offer Hayward a five-year contract in the range of $180 million, meanwhile, the Celtics can put on the table a four-year deal worth $132.

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