After opting out of the final year of his contract with the Boston Celtics, veteran small forward Gordon Hayward is currently emerging as one of the most coveted players on the free-agent market. Despite the financial implications of the coronavirus pandemic for the entire league, Hayward looks very confident that he could land a long-term contract. Since the 2020 offseason started, several teams have expressed a strong interest in adding him to their roster.
As of now, one of the frontrunners to get Hayward’s services as a free agent is his hometown team, the Indiana Pacers. In a recent article, Marc Berman of the New York Post revealed that Hayward’s Indiana homecoming has “gained major traction.” However, with the Pacers’ limited salary cap space, they would have to engage in a sign-and-trade deal with the Celtics to acquire him. In the potential deal with the Celtics, Berman suggested that the Pacers could use Myles Turner and Aaron Holiday as possible trade chips.
“The chance for the Pacers to bring former Celtics star forward Gordon Hayward back to home to Indy, where he was raised and led Butler to two NCAA Finals Fours has gained major traction. According to a source, the Pacers are the front-runner for Hayward and trying to land him via a sign-and-trade. The Pacers don’t have the cap space but names such as Aaron Holiday and Myles Turner have come up.”
Two teams with major salary cap space, the New York Knicks and the Atlanta Hawks, have also expressed their desire in signing Hayward, but the former All-Star reportedly prefers “to go home.” Sacrificing Turner and Holiday could make sense for the Pacers if they think that adding Hayward to their roster could help them make a deeper playoff run in the 2020-21 season. Hayward may have gone through plenty of ups and downs in the past few years but last season, he seemed to have mostly returned to form.
In the 52 games he played, he averaged 17.5 points, 6.7 rebounds, and 4.1 assists while shooting 50 percent from the field and 38.3 percent from beyond the arc, per ESPN. If he further regains his All-Star form and manage to stay away from serious injuries, adding him to the core of Malcolm Brogdon, Victor Oladipo, TJ Warren, and Domantas Sabonis could give the Pacers a better chance of contending for a championship next season.
Meanwhile, the potential sign-and-trade with Indiana is arguably a no-brainer for the Celtics. Instead of losing Hayward as an unrestricted free agent without getting anything in return, the suggested trade would allow them to acquire a starting-caliber center in Turner and a backup guard in Holiday.