Green Target: Gordon Hayward

There was lots of “Gordon Hayward to the Celtics” chatter earlier this year. Should the Celtics make a run at prying away the former Butler Bulldog from Utah?

How the Celtics could get him: 
As Hayward is a restricted free agent this off-season there are two ways in which the Celtics can get him into a green jersey: 1. They can outbid the Jazz and any other suitor, or 2. they can try to work a sign-and-trade.

Option 1: The Bidding War 
Call me crazy, but bidding wars are not something the Celtics should be getting into for any restricted free agent at the present time, even someone like Gordon Hayward who has all the x-factors needed to take Boston by storm.

As Hayward is a restricted free agent, Utah has the right of first refusal- meaning they can match any offer they receive for him. His team option, which wasn’t picked up by Utah, is for $4.6M. Had they picked up that contract, he’d be the third highest paid player on the team going into the 2014-15 season. This puts Utah in a great position with Hayward as they have the cap space to keep him if they want, drive up the asking price, or sign him to a Omar Asik/Jeremy Lin-esque poison pill contract- one that balloons in later years, making him almost untradeable unless his skill starts to jump off the charts.

The specifics of restricted free agency- as far as I can tell from an hour of research specifically on the RFA clauses in the current CBA- boil down to this: it’s more-or-less a one shot deal per team.

Once a pursuing team signs a player to an offer sheet, the current team can match it and that’s basically it. The asking team has very limited options after the offer is matched and cannot acquire that player through trades later on in the season.

Hayward could easily command upwards of $9M a season (the Jeff Green range), or he could get squeezed in free agency and get a lower offer of $6M (the Avery Bradley range). Should the Celtics make a serious run at Hayward, it could take a huge chunk out of the cap space the Celtics have worked hard to clear heading into this season. In order for this to work REALLY well, it would take a lot of other things falling into place at the exact same time.

Option 2: The Same-Time-Sign-and-Trade 
Hayward is a two guard for Utah. He’s an elite shooter. Avery Bradley is a two guard for Boston. He’s an elite defender. The Utah Jazz were dead last in defensive efficiency in 2013-14 according to ESPN’s Hollinger Team Efficiency Rating. The Celtics struggled to keep the foot on the gas offensively down the stretch for their entire season. If the Celtics are looking to get better offensively, and the Jazz want to improve defensively, trying to swing the seldom seen same-time-sign-and-trade might be something that helps both teams improve.

The Trey Burke/Avery Bradley back court would be one hell of a tandem. Young, exciting, and efficient on both sides of the ball. Matched with an interior of Derrick Favors (who is signed for big money in Utah) and Enes Kanter, that’s quite the team.

Similarly, the Rajon Rondo/Gordon Hayward back court would be an offensive dream in Boston. Depending on the other moves that Boston is trying to make (cough cough KEVIN LOVE cough cough), Boston could stay just as strong defensively while improving offensively by adding Hayward. 

With both teams looking to improve through the draft and get creative in free agency, this might be the perfect storm or it could completely blow over. Either way, it’s going to take very careful maneuvering by both sides to convince the players this is the best move for them, that they are each part of the immediate future of each organization, and financially it is the best option to take.

Pros of getting Gordon Hayward: 

  • Great offensive player.
  • A fantastic “piece of the puzzle” guy.
  • Paired with Rondo and another elite player, Hayward could be the heir to Ray Allen’s offensive legacy in Boston.

Cons of getting Gordon Hayward: 

  • Not a great defensive player.
  • Might have to overpay or get into a bidding war.
  • Without other pieces falling into place simultaneously, this could take a while to pay off.

The Verdict: 
Gordon Hayward is worth inquiring about. He’s got the Butler connection with Brad Stevens, but he’s not the savior of the franchise. To be fair- we don’t know if anyone is. The Celtics are a TEAM; meaning we need guys to all play a specific role. The window to make it all work the way we want is small and closing fast. If the pieces can all fall into place, then this is a great move. If Hayward is the biggest piece we can snag this off season, I’d keep rather on looking.

Follow Padraic O'Connor on Twitter @padraic_oconnor

PHOTO: Christian Petersen/Getty Images
Andy Bailey; Bleacher Report