After years of smartly stockpiling draft picks and young talent, the Boston Celtics finally pulled the trigger when they acquired Gordon Hayward, the Utah Jazz’s versatile All-Star who averaged 21.9 points, 5.4 rebounds, and 3.5 assists last season. The Celtics signed Hayward to a whopping 4-year $128-million deal. Not a bad addition to a team that finished first in the Eastern Conference with 53 wins and has tons of first-round prospects.
Hayward joins last season’s MVP candidate Isaiah Thomas and center Al Horford effectively forming another Big Three. Thomas gushed that Hayward is “the type of players we need to get to the Finals.” And this is probably true since the Celtics lost to the Cleveland Cavaliers 4-1 as the latter easily stymied the former’s offense as Thomas suffered from a hip injury during the series. Hayward takes the offensive load off Thomas and gives them another outside threat.
Another aspect of Hayward’s game that is not often mentioned is his ability to guard 4 positions with his 7-foot wingspan. The Jazz ranked first in defense last season with his help. He will be able to help check high-scoring twos and threes given Boston’s undersized backcourt.
He is also reunited with his former college coach Brad Stevens. Under Stevens, Hayward led Butler to the NCAA Championship Game losing a close one versus Duke in 2010 before he declared for the NBA Draft. It has been reported recently that Stevens was one of the main reasons why Hayward bolted Utah since the two have unfinished business, and that is to finally win a championship together. Hayward should not have any problem incorporating his skills with the Celtics since Stevens runs a motion offense where spacing is essential.
But while the Stevens connection is there, Hayward joined the Celtics simply because he wants to win. He left money on the table in Utah and Miami, where there are no state income taxes. He could have gotten a longer term deal with his former team but the Jazz have no chance in the West with the loaded rosters of the Golden State Warriors, San Antonio Spurs, and the Houston Rockets. Out in the East, the Celtics have pulled closer to Cavaliers and have a chance to usurp LeBron’s kingdom.
Additionally, everything looks good for the Celtics now and in the near future. The Celtics boast of a young core that includes No.3 picks Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum, versatile big man Ante Zizic, Marcus Smart, and Jae Crowder. However, the Celtics need to let go of some key personnel to provide space for Hayward’s salary. Reportedly, Smart, Avery Bradley, and Crowder are on the trading block. They have already let go of versatile center Kelly Olynyk who signed with the Miami Heat.
Even if one or two of these players are let go, the Celtics can sustain this excellence since they have seven first-round draft picks in the next three years with two high picks in 2018. They can continue to get young talent from the draft and eventually trade them away once superstars become available. The Celtics will be contenders for years to come.