It appears as though Gordon Hayward’s time with the Boston Celtics has come to an end. After turning down his $34.1 million player option for the 2020-21 season in favor of free agency, Hayward is now intent on joining the Indiana Pacers, according to a report from Marc Stein of The New York Times. The New York Knicks also have interest, per Stein, and have the cap space to sign him.
Technically, Hayward could also sign a new deal with the Celtics, though that seems unlikely at this point, especially since Boston is already well established on the perimeter, thanks to Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown. Given the Pacers are Hayward’s preferred destination, the most likely scenario at this point is a sign and trade between Boston and Indiana.
That would allow the Pacers, who do not have significant cap space, to give Hayward the long-term deal — somewhere around four years, $100 million — he wants. Hayward, of course, 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 Pacers have a number of players that could help the Celtics, most notably Myles Turner. With Enes Kanter off to the Trail Blazers, the Celtics are even thinner in the frontcourt than they were last season, when that was one of their most glaring needs. Turner would provide plenty of rim protection, and his ability to step out and hit the 3 would allow him to fit in on the offensive side of the ball. On paper, at least, a deal involving Turner makes a lot of sense, though we’ll obviously have to wait and see what happens.
Hayward, 30, has worked continuously 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 just 18 total games during the 2018-19 season, Hayward started in all 52 regular-season games that he played with the Celtics last season. He averaged nearly nine more minutes of playing time per game, and he increased his per-game scoring average by six points (from 11.5 to 17.5). Unfortunately, another ankle injury limited Hayward to just five appearances during the postseason, but he was able to return for Boston’s conference finals matchup with Miami.