As the Celtics play the Jazz tonight, there are plenty of different story lines to think about with these two teams. They’re both without wins at this point and are looking to rebuild their teams. Neither has playoff hopes, but one does have a potential free agent that the opposition could want. Gordon Hayward could be the apple of the Celtics’ eye very soon.
With the deadline to sign restricted free agents behind us, there are many notable names that will hit the market this season as restricted free agents. Among those names are Greg Monroe, Avery Bradley, Eric Bledsoe and Gordon Hayward.
All of these prospects have interesting situations with their original teams. With restricted free agency, players normally return to their teams one way or another. The original team will always have a chance to match any offer given by the team coveting the free agent, but if they feel that the deal is unreasonable they’ll let them walk or even try to perform a sign and trade.
The Celtics are going to have plenty of cap space next season. Their figure currently sits at $48,206,135–it is sure to increase once the offseason starts and they’re hit with cap holds. However, they can renounce players like Keith Bogans, Kris Humprhies, Jordan Crawford and Marshon Brooks. That would clear them up enough space to go and get a prominent free agent.
Enter Gordon Hayward, the sharpshooting wing from out of Utah. The Celtics are going to need someone to complement Jeff Green offensively on the wing–especially if they don’t pick one up in the draft. Hayward can be the guy that they’re looking for in this situation.
It is said that Hayward was looking for a deal between $10-11 million per year. That isn’t quite the max amount, but it’s a pretty hefty one for a one-way player who is shooting 40% from the field this season and hasn’t really added too much to his game from last season.
The Paul George deal inflated what Hayward’s initial asking price would’ve been, but it’ll likely come down if he underperforms this season and doesn’t prove that he has a balanced floor game on both ends. You don’t pay players max deals when they show no capability on the defensive end–that’s why the Jazz were reluctant to get a deal done and will let him hit free agency.
Now, it’ll take a lot for the Celtics to pry Hayward out of the Jazz’s hands. They’ll likely have to overpay him and possible ‘poison’ his contract. Meaning that they can offer Hayward a deal that backloads or frontloads his deal. But the problem with that is that the Jazz have tons of cap space over the next few years. They’re way below the cap this season and they’ll only have just over $16 million on the books next offseason.
They don’t have anyone under contract aside from rookie player options in the seasons after 2014-15. If they really want to keep Hayward for a slightly inflated price, they’d easily be able to afford that in any year. That would be a bullet that they’d be willing to take for a player that could be a key cog in their future plans.
The Celtics could offer a draft pick or two to the Jazz along with a few of their rookie scale deals, and I’m sure that would make for an enticing deal for the Jazz in a sign-and-trade situation. But they’d likely have to take back one of the Celtics’ hefty contracts like Courtney Lee’s deal or Brandon Bass’s. If Hayward puts them over the salary cap they won’t be able to make a deal.
But that’s not an impossibility. The Jazz are going to have to hit the salary cap floor and would be able to eat a deal of that caliber. But if they plan on making big free agency moves, I doubt that they’d want to take back one of those contract or even trade Hayward.
It’s a possibility that the Celtics go after Hayward, but I’d say it’s a long shot. If they could get him and pair him with Rondo and whoever they draft next season, they may be back in the swing of the Eastern Conference sooner rather than later.