We’ve talked about it. We’ve thought about it. We’ve assumed it was true. But we’ve never really received confirmation on it.
Did the Boston Celtics essentially stand pat at the trade deadline so that they could go after Gordon Hayward (player option) in free agency?
The unofficially official answer: Yes and no.
“There’s tremendous pressure on (Utah) right now because Gordon Hayward’s a free agent, and Boston has cap space — and Brad Stevens,” Wojnarowski said on the podcast. “… This isn’t the reason Boston didn’t make a deal (at the NBA trade deadline), but it is part of their thought: ‘Why would we give up all of our assets for Paul George and Jimmy Butler when we could go out in free agency and sign Gordon Hayward?’ They’re going to go hard after him.”
So long as the Celtics don’t make any big-time acquisitions ahead of the draft, their path to max cap space is relatively clear. And while there’s nothing out there to suggest that Hayward is looking to leave the Utah Jazz, his connection with Celtics coach Brad Stevens, his head honcho at Butler, renders Boston a threat almost by default.
Signing with the Celtics gives Hayward a clearer path to the NBA Finals. He has to go through LeBron James’ Cleveland Cavaliers, rather than the San Antonio Spurs, Los Angeles Clippers, Houston Rockets and Golden State Warriors. That’s a big deal.
The Celtics are even more intriguing because they could sign him and still turn around with a blockbuster offer for one of Paul George or Jimmy Butler. Joining a team that is within striking distance of another superstar might appeal to Hayward. Or maybe it won’t. Maybe the Jazz fare well in the playoffs and he’s sold long term. Maybe the money they can offer him is enough on its own.
Regardless of what Hayward ultimately decides, though, his decision seems destined to come down to Boston or Utah, without any other teams entering the fold.