Despite a disappointing end to their 2019-20 NBA season, the Houston Rockets are not expected to break up the explosive backcourt duo of James Harden and Russell Westbrook this fall. Instead of giving up on the Harden-Westbrook combo, they are set to find ways to build a more competitive roster around the two former MVPs. One of the potential trade targets for the Rockets in the 2020 offseason is veteran small forward Gordon Hayward of the Boston Celtics.
According to Greg Swartz of Bleacher Report, the Rockets may consider sending a package that includes Robert Covington, Eric Gordon, and a 2021 second-round pick to the Celtics in exchange for Hayward.
"With its draft picks and young talent nearly depleted, Houston will have to start trading off rotation players to find ones who better fit Westbrook and James Harden. Between the trio of Covington, P.J. Tucker and Danuel House Jr., Covington likely carries the most value. Hayward is an extremely versatile player, one who could let Harden rest more throughout the regular season and allow Houston to take advantage of the league's leading scorer off the ball. When Harden and Westbrook are orchestrating the offense, Hayward would be an excellent floor-spacer with his 42.5 percent mark on catch-and-shoot threes this season. His 6'7", 225-pound frame would also fit Houston's switch-everything defense."
Though it would cost two essential members of their core, bringing Hayward to Houston would undeniably be an intriguing idea for the Rockets. Hayward has yet to regain his All-Star form since suffering a serious injury in 2017, but he's already showing steady improvement with his performance on both ends of the floor. This season, he's averaging 17.5 points, 6.7 rebounds, and 4.1 assists while shooting 50.0 percent from the field and 38.3 percent from beyond the arc, per stats at ESPN.
If he continues to rebuild his game, it will only be a matter of time before the version of Hayward that played for the Utah Jazz shows up on the court. That version of Hayward would make the Rockets a more dangerous team on the offensive end of the floor next year. With his ability to excel in an off-ball capacity, he likely wouldn't have a hard time serving as the third option behind ball-dominant stars like Harden and Westbrook in Houston.
Meanwhile, the potential deal wouldn't only be beneficial for the Rockets but also for the Celtics. In exchange for Hayward's expiring contract, the Celtics would be receiving two quality veteran role players in Covington and Gordon that could make them a more competitive team in the Eastern Conference. Covington would be a perfect fit as the team's new starting power forward, while Gordon could serve as Boston's sixth man next year.