Boston is now a prime free agent destination

Gordon Hayward’s decision to sign for the Boston Celtics earlier this week, ahead of other suitors such as the Miami Heat has shifted a long-time narrative around the league. Prior to the last couple of years, the belief was that Boston were unable to attract any top-tier free agents, only able to bring in superstars via a trade i.e. Kevin Garnett, Ray Allen. Trying to convince one of the better players in the NBA to sign to a long-term deal with the Celtics was seen as more of a challenge than anything else.

Pundits and fans alike claimed there were only a couple of big-markets such as Los Angeles or Miami that could attract those type of names. Brian Robb from CelticsHub alluded to this on his Twitter page in the aftermath of the Hayward confirmation;

Hayward’s signing, coupled with Al Horford opting for Boston last summer, makes it two years in a row that Boston have come out on top in the sweepstakes for a top free agent. The narrative has shifted immensely, and players (and their agents) now view the Celtics as a prime destination once they go in search of a new contract.

The same cannot be said for Los Angeles, Miami or New York. Those cities used to dominate these periods, but in the last few years, neither franchise have been able to grab any legitimate top-tier free agent. In fact, they’ve been on the opposite end of the scale. Dwight Howard bolted the Lakers the first chance he got, LeBron James returned to Cleveland as Dwyane Wade followed him out of Miami a couple of years later and the comical business nature of the Knicks has turned most of their targets away from the Madison Square Garden.

Players these days don’t rely on ‘big-market’ teams for a heavy paycheck and more exposure. LaMarcus Aldridge in 2015 rejected the lure of Los Angeles, despite their front office grabbing two meetings with him, to sign with the San Antonio Spurs. Why? Because he knew he had a much better chance of winning. The Lakers assumed all free agents were like Shaquille O’Neal in 1996; influenced by the entertainment allure of the city. Yet, in these modern times, players don’t need Los Angeles as much as Los Angeles needs them. Their names will be known if they manage to be good enough anyways. Just look at Russell Westbrook and the legacy he’s built in Oklahoma.

Players just care about winning. They know that Boston have one of the brightest futures in the NBA and with a couple of more savvy moves, they’ll be legitimate Championship contenders.

Credit to Jennifer Stewart/ USA Today Sports for the photo
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