In the likely event that Boston Celtics forward Gordon Hayward opts into the final year of his contract, which will pay him more than $34 million, the team could consider trading the former All-Star. To that end, the Celtics may already have one party interested in acquiring his services in the Indiana Pacers, according to a report.
Per SportsNet New York‘s NBA insider Ian Begley, “some within the Pacers organization” still have a desire to make a deal for the 30-year-old after the Indianapolis Star labeled him a player of interest for the franchise in June.
Hayward could become a free agent this fall by opting out of his current contract. However, the low likelihood that he could find a similarly lucrative deal on the open market — particularly given the league’s loss of revenue due to the COVID-19 pandemic — should preclude him from doing so. Meanwhile, his high-dollar salary no longer matches his role in Boston.
When the Celtics inked Hayward to a four-year, $127.8 million deal (per Spotrac) during the summer of 2017, the 6-foot-7-inch, 225-pounder was fresh off a career year with the Utah Jazz. In 73 games played during the 2016-17 campaign, he averaged 21.9 points, 5.4 rebounds and 3.5 assists per contest while shooting over 47 percent from the field and connecting on almost 40 percent of his three-point shots, according to Basketball-Reference.
However, he went on to suffer a fractured tibia and a dislocated ankle just six minutes into his official debut with Boston on October 17, 2017. Hayward wouldn’t play in another regular-season game for another calendar year as he rehabilitated his injuries. After struggling through the 2018-19 season, he performed significantly better in 2019-20, averaging nearly 18 points and seven rebounds per game.
Still, he has clearly been supplanted in Beantown by burgeoning stars Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown.
The Pacers, meanwhile, are currently seeking a resolution regarding All-Star guard Victor Oladipo, who is set to become an unrestricted free agent following the 2020-21 campaign. A move to acquire Hayward could potentially be part of the team’s efforts to convince Oladipo to re-up in Indiana. It could also come as an effort to shore up the roster in the event that he doesn’t remain with the club.
As noted by Begley, the Pacers have been approached by a litany of teams about trading center Myles Turner. Last week, The Inquisitr noted that Bleacher Report‘s Eric Pincus mused about a potential Turner-for-Hayward swap.
In addition to potentially assuming a larger role with the Pacers, a move to the team would also represent a homecoming for Hayward, who is a native of Brownsburg, Indiana, and also played at nearby Butler University.