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Grading the Hornets’ blockbuster $120 million Gordon Hayward signing

Gordon Hayward’s massive $120 million deal to move to the Charlotte Hornets has been one of the biggest shockers of free agency. Hayward gave up a $34.2 million player option with the Boston Celtics for 2020-21, and many were dumbfounded with this decision to bail on a boatload of cash. However, he proved all those naysayers wrong by getting almost that same annual number guaranteed for the next four seasons.

Hayward’s time in Boston certainly didn’t pan out the way everyone hoped. After signing a four-year, $128 million contract with the Celtics in 2017, he suffered a devastating leg injury just minutes into the season and missed the rest of the campaign.

The Butler product slowly worked his way back to form, but it was a rocky road. Last season, Hayward was finally able to play a significant role for Boston. He averaged 17.5 points, 6.7 rebounds and 4.1 assists in 52 games — his best numbers since his lone All-Star season in 2016-2017, his final year for the Utah Jazz. He also shot an impressive 50.0% from the field and 38.3% on 3-pointers.

Unfortunately, injuries hampered Hayward in the playoffs. The Celtics made it to the Eastern Conference Finals, only to lose to the Miami Heat in six games. Hayward appeared in the final four games of the series, but he didn’t look like himself. While a healthy Hayward could have been the difference, it jus wasn’t meant to be. Ultimately, he decided to move on after that latest disappointment.

Gordon Hayward is obviously still a good player when healthy, and this move makes some sense in terms of personnel. A young LaMelo Ball and Devonte’ Graham will definitely benefit from having an experienced vet like Hayward in the locker room. The Hornets also have a few other young guns in P.J. Washington and Miles Bridges to develop. This move could mean the end of Terry Rozier in Charlotte, but that’s not a big deal, and perhaps he could be traded for more help in the frontcourt.

Michael Jordan clearly wants his Hornets to compete for a playoff spot in the Eastern Conference, and the addition of Hayward could help them do that. However, they’ll likely be a fringe playoff team at best, and that price tag combined with the amount of years makes this a risky play. Sure, Charlotte needs to overpay free agents to get them to sign, but it’s hard to be too high on this nine-digit deal given Hayward’s age and health concerns.

Ironically enough, the Hornets were set this season to finish up a massive long-term deal gone bad in the form of Nicolas Batum, another versatile swingman. Instead, Charlotte is waiving and stretching Batum’s $27.1 million deal for 2020-21, which adds about $9 million on the books over each of the next three years. So, basically, the Hornets are spending about $40 million over the next three seasons to have Hayward on the roster.

That’s quite the hefty fee for a 30-year-old with recent injury problems, even if he still is a good player. Hayward definitely isn’t a great player at this point, so this is quite the overpay.

Of course, a $30 million average annual value guaranteed for the next four years is a win for Gordon Hayward, who turns 31 this season. Hopefully, he pays off the trust of the organization with one heck of a 2020-2021 campaign, complete with a run to the playoffs.

But right now our honest assessment of the Hornets’ blockbuster deal to acquire the 30-year-old swingman is a C.