In the summer of 2017 the Celtics landed one of the biggest free-agent prizes of the summer when they lured Gordon Hayward away from the Utah Jazz. 3 summers late and now the Celtics are stuck with an albatross of a contract that is hindering their advancement to an elite title contender.
Hayward has failed to live up to his summer of 2017 billing, or his all-star 2016-17 season. Though, this is no fault of either the Celtics or Hayward. on the opening night of the 2017-18 season, Hayward gruesomely broke his leg on national television. The injury cost him the remaining 81 games and playoffs of the 2018 season and took most of the 2019 season to recover.
But even with a full recovery, Hayward is not back to his all-star level. in 2017 he averaged a career-high 22 points a game, made his only all-star game, and helped guide the Utah Jazz to the second round of the playoffs. Hayward has always had slight injury issues. Even in his all-star season, he missed the first 9 games of the season. Last year he missed games due to a fracture. Hayward has only played a full season once; his second season that was only 66 games long. He has appeared in more than 75 games only twice and has never played an entire season.
The Celtics owe Hayward 34 million dollars next year, that is if Hayward takes his player option – which is exactly what he is going to do and what the Celtics don’t want him to do.
No team is going to pay Gordon Hayward 34 million dollars this season. That would be a higher contract than what the MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo is making. To put it in better context, Lebron James is making 39 million this season.
The Celtics are hoping that they can work out some sort of long term extension where they overpay Hayward for a couple of more years in hopes of saving salary this season. This allows the Celtics to have more room to work with trying to acquire additional players. It also allows Hayward to have additional security and make more money over the long term. Say for example the Celtics extend Hayward 65 million over 3 seasons. Hayward opts out losing the 34 million this season, but making an additional 30 million over the next 2 seasons. The Celtics would than only be on the bill for less than 22 million a season for Hayward.
If Hayward declines to do this, it is possible for the Celtics to trade him. The Atlanta Hawks have shown interest in him, but the Hawks are reluctant to give up assets for Hayward.