After suffering a huge disappointment in his first two years with the Boston Celtics, veteran small forward Gordon Hayward is now back to posting decent numbers in the 2019-20 NBA season. Before the NBA suspension due to the spread of coronavirus, Hayward was averaging 17.3 points, 6.5 rebounds, and 4.1 assists while shooting 50.2 percent from the field and 39.2 percent from beyond the arc. Though it still remains a big question mark when the NBA will resume, some people have already started talking about what Hayward intends to do when the season is over.
Hayward has a player option in his contract that will enable him to become an unrestricted free agent this summer. With the lack of incoming free agent superstars for the 2020 NBA offseason, Hayward could be tempted to try his luck and test the market. However, according to Sean Deveney of Heavy, several league executives are expecting Howard to opt into the final year of his contract with the Celtics.
“It’s too much money to pass up,” one general manager said. “He could get a longer deal if that is what he really wants. But I don’t think the Celtics want to give it to him, they have a lot of young guys to pay and the starting (salary) number on whatever the contract is will not be close to $34 million. He can opt in this year and then take a big contract next year. When you look at what he has done since his injury, he has only gotten better. He could get better next year and be ready for the summer of 2021.”
With his current performance in the 2019-20 NBA season, it wouldn’t be a surprise if Hayward receives plenty of interest if he decides to enter the free agency market this summer. However, as much as other teams might want to add him to their roster, it remains unknown if any of them would be willing to give Hayward a max contract. Money-wise, Hayward is better off exercising his $34.1 million player option with the Celtics and waiting to become a free agent in the summer of 2021 where multiple teams will have tons of money to spend.
Meanwhile, though it would affect their salary cap flexibility in the 2020 NBA offseason, Hayward’s decision to opt into the final year of his contract would be beneficial for the Celtics. Instead of losing him in free agency without getting anything in return, the Celtics could use Hayward’s expiring deal as a valuable trade chip to further improve their roster, or acquire future draft assets this summer or before the 2021 NBA trade deadline.