Gordon Hayward, despite a few nagging injuries, has been a key contributor to the Boston Celtics’ success this season. However, the elephant in the room is his player option for next season and how it factors into the current trade market and his future with the team.
Gordon Hayward has a $35 million dollar player option for next season that he will have the option to exercise at the beginning of free agency. Should he opt out, he would have the option to negotiate with the Celtics for a new contract or seek employment elsewhere. Even though it’s still months away, the option and extension still loom over the Boston Celtics, particularly with the trade market beginning to heat up.
What the C’s ultimately want to do in light of his option and extension will essentially dictate the kind of flexibility they will have in making trades this season. His salary is really the only meaningful one on the roster currently considered “tradable.” If he’s not part of their future plans — which very well might be the case given their surplus of dynamic young wings — he’s a prime candidate to be moved.
However, should both sides agree that he’s going to be in Boston for the foreseeable future, that player option suddenly becomes a huge sticking piece of the negotiations. Given all that he’s been through while with the Boston Celtics, both his and the teams success this season, his relationship with Brad Stevens and Danny Ainge, and the way that the team is set up for the future, he has many reasons to stay here long term.
Still, at the end of the day basketball is simply a business, and often times even when two sides have a desire to get things done they can’t ultimately work out the logistics.
In any case, it’s hard to get deals done in the NBA. There are myriad factors to be considered on both sides, and the Hayward situation is no different. First and foremost, the Boston Celtics have their young core to worry about. Jaylen Brown just signed a 4-year, $115 million extension that kicks in next season.
They have the inevitable max contract offer coming down the pipe for Jayson Tatum, which could be worth nearly $140 million over 4-years, perhaps even more should he make an All-NBA team next season. Fortunately they still have his Bird rights, meaning they will be able to go over the salary cap to offer Tatum a max deal. However, with Hayward’s contract on the books as well they will be just over the luxury tax line.
Not only will this incur financial penalties for the organization, but it affords them much less flexibility to sign players using the Mid-Level Exception. If they manage to stay under the tax line, they can use nearly $10 million for the MLE, rather than only $6 million should they exceed the tax.
That might not seem like much, but it can be the difference between adding a fringe rotation guy and a legitimate role player. So there is a clear incentive for Boston to restructure Hayward’s contract from both a financial and organizational standpoint, but also from a roster building perspective as well.
The question here is whether they can get a contract done that will incentivize Hayward enough to opt-out of his massive option year and take more money over time, much like how they hoped things were going to work out with Al Horford last season.
There were a few deals signed last summer that can help size the Gordon Hayward market and give some clarity on what a new deal might look like and how that will affect the makeup of this payroll and roster moving forward.