Analysis of Gordon Hayward’s free agent contract with the Hornets
Woj also reported that the Hornets will waive Nic Batum to create cap space in order to sign Hayward.
So long, Boston
Things just never quite worked out for Hayward in Boston.
His tenure as a Celtic was doomed from the get-go as his debut in green was marred by a gruesome lower leg injury. Hayward would go on to be absent for the entirety of the 2017-18 season, missing out on valuable playing time with his new team and learning a new system.
Furthermore, Hayward would also have to overcome the mental challenges that arise when suffering such a grisly injury.
Over his three seasons in Boston, Hayward averaged 13.9 points, 3.6 assists and 5.4 rebounds per game. Moreover, the forward averaged a FG% of 48%, a 3P% of 35.7% and a FT% of 84%. Thus, Hayward was a far cry from the 50/40/90 guy Boston hoped they were signing in the summer of 2017. Hayward still remained a valuable asset. However, after the injury, Hayward seemed less aggressive, more tentative and, at times, a shadow of his former self.
What made matters worse for Hayward is that he could never truly carve out a role under Celtics’ head coach Brad Stevens. The emergence of Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum made Hayward feel surplus to requirements at times. He was never big and physical enough to play the four-spot, and not better than Tatum to reclaim the small forward position.
There were sparks of the old Hayward here and there. At times, he would drop 27 points against the Thunder, as he did prior to the suspension of the league back in March. Thus, there are still remnants of the player that Boston signed in the summer of 2017. And if Hayward were to put up big numbers on a bad Hornets team, no one would be surprised. Hayward could even become a certified All-Star in Charlotte.
Whatever the case, Hayward’s time in Boston will go down as a disappointment. Marred by injury and passive performances, Hayward’s time as a Celtic will join the NBA‘s long list of ‘what ifs’.
The fit in Charlotte
With this signing, the Michael Jordan owned Hornets are in contention to become the cliched off-season ‘sneakily good’ team. Forward Miles Bridges and big-man P.J. Washington are two solid young players and the selection of LaMelo Ball in the 2020 draft adds a bit of flair and creativity to the mix in Charlotte.
An expected starting five of Terry Rozier, Malik Monk, Hayward, Bridges and Washington is enough to make some noise in the East. The Hornets did finish the (shortened) 2020 season with a record of 23-42.
However, down the stretch, the Hornets strung together a few impressive wins; including a 109-98 win against the Heat in Miami. If the Hornets are in contention for the 8th seed come March, similar to how New Orleans finished last season, then few would be surprised.
Off the court, Hayward can act as a mentor and a veteran presence. Especially to Miles Bridges, who averaged 13.0 points his sophomore season. On a young, talented roster as the one in Charlotte, it’s important to have a veteran presence on the court and in the locker room. Hayward, by all accounts, can fulfil that role comfortably.
Hayward’s Hornets contract
If you’re Michael Jordan, having Gordon Hayward, or a Gordon Hayward type of talent, on a young, budding team is not a bad idea in theory. Hayward has the ability as well as the experience to take meaningful, high-pressure shots and can be the face of a team looking for an identity. Hayward will allow Miles Bridges to develop and flourish away from the spotlight and act as a great leadership presence within the organisation.
However, spending that much money ($30 million a year over four years) on a non-superstar is the type of move that has lowered the ceiling for the Hornets in the past. By forking out this kind of cash for sub-par talent, you end up with a bloated wage bill being consumed by non-contributors.
The Hornets are already paying Terry Rozier $58 million over three years.
With that in mind, a fresh start on a team where he will be ‘the guy’ may be just what Gordon Hayward needs.