It appears as though Gordon Hayward’s run with the Celtics has come to an end. He is the 16th highest-paid player in the NBA and it is natural for teams to reconsider taking on his huge salary. Post turning down his $34.1 million player option for the 2020-21 season in favour of the free agency, Hayward now intends on joining the Indiana Pacers, according to a report The New York Times from Marc Stein. Per Stein, the New York Knicks are also interested and have the cap space to sign him.
Although it seems unlikely at this point, Hayward could also sign a new deal with the Boston Celtics, especially since Boston is already well-established on the perimeter, thanks to Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum. Given the Indiana Pacers are Hayward’s preferred destination, the most likely scenario at this point is a sign and trade between Boston and Indiana.
This would allow the Pacers, who do not have significant cap space, to give Hayward the long-term deal – of about four years, $100 million – he wants. Hayward is from Indiana and played collegiately at Butler. Being able to return home would appear to be a significant motivating factor in his decision-making process.
The Pacer have a number of players that could be of help to the Celtics, most notably Myles Turner. The Celtics are even thinner in the front-court than they were last season, with Enes Kanter off to the Trail Blazers. That was one of their most glaring needs. Turner would provide plenty of rim protection, and his ability to step out and shoot three points would allow him to fit in on the offensive side.
30-year-old Hayward has continuously worked to get back to the peak of his powers after suffering a devastating, season-ending ankle injury during his first game with the Celtics in October 2017. After starting in only 18 games during the 2018-19 season, he started in all 52 regular-season games that he played for the Celtics last season.