The Boston Celtics are reportedly interested in reuniting head coach Brad Stevens with one of his former Butler stars, current Utah Jazz small forward and potential unrestricted free agent Gordon Hayward, NBA sources told ESPN’s Zach Lowe.
The report also suggested that the Miami Heat and Sacramento Kings have held “vague trade talks” since July, and that the depleted Heat may have to consider trading guard Goran Dragic. Also, the Kings appear unlikely to part with big man DeMarcus Cousins.
The Celtics, one of the rising teams in Eastern Conference and coming off their first postseason victories in three years, do have the requisite salary cap space to lure Hayward away from the Jazz with a big contract and the promise of Stevens’ tutelage. Hayward played for Stevens for two seasons at Butler and blossomed into a first-round lottery pick taken by the Jazz in 2010.
Expected to contend with the Cleveland Cavaliers and the Toronto Raptors for the top spots in the East this season, the Celtics are coming off a successful free agency period that included several big-name signings and draft picks. However, they could use the kind of depth at the wings that Hayward would provide on both ends of the floor.
Presently, the Celtics have Jae Crowder, who has been sought by other teams in trades, rookie and No. 3 overall pick Jaylen Brown, and James Young at small forward.
Hayward could also help Boston stretch defenses and improve its moribund long-range shooting. He’s shot 36 percent from beyond the arc for his career, and the Celtics were No. 28 in the NBA at 33.5 percent from deep last season.
Next summer, the Celtics will have $7.2 million in salary cap space, sixth most in the league, according to Spotrac, and more than $13 million in the summer of 2018. That would be more than enough to land Hayward.
The report stresses Utah does have several players, including Hayward, who could command lucrative, long-term contracts but that it might not have enough cap space to keep all of them. Thus, Boston could attempt a sign-and-trade deal or simply pursue Hayward if he joins next summer’s free agency market.
The 26-year-old Hayward, who has led the Jazz in scoring with better than 19 points a game the last three seasons, could exercise the $16.7 million player option on his current contract and play in Utah through the 2017-18 season or hit free agency next summer. However, given the recently inflated salary cap maximum, expected to blow past $100 million per team, it's likely Hayward opts out and hits the open market.
Next summer, Hayward could join veteran point guards George Hill and Shelvin Mack, as well as restricted free agent center Rudy Gobert on the open market, leaving the Jazz susceptible to a raid of their young talent from other teams.
As for the Heat and Kings, they could help solve each other’s problems. Sacramento’s long been in pursuit of a point guard to pair with its young wings and Cousins, but has come up empty-handed for years now. Dragic, a lethal scorer and deft playmaker, could aid the Kings quest and Miami may be able to get back several of the picks they’ve traded away in recent years.
However, Miami did surrender two first-round picks to Phoenix for Dragic, and getting back equal value will be difficult.
Cousins, one of the best offensive players in the league, has been on and off the trading block for some time and former Kings head coach George Karl was actively shopping him. But, according to ESPN, Kings owner Vivek Ranadive “loves” Cousins even though a “half-dozen rivals” could make big offers for the All-Star.