Yesterday, the decision that most of the NBA was waiting for came to fruition. All-Star Gordon Hayward announced via a piece in the Players Tribune that he had chosen the Celtics. Of course, this signing is monumental for Boston as not only is it the second season in a row where they managed to sign a big free agent.
Hayward said in his article as to why he chose Boston over Utah,
“And now I’ve decided to sign with the Boston Celtics.
There were so many great things pulling me in that direction. There was the winning culture of Boston, as a city — from the Sox, to the Pats, to the Bruins. There was the special history of the Celtics, as a franchise — from Russell, to Bird, to Pierce, and it goes on. There was the amazing potential of this current Celtics team — from ownership, to the front office, to a talented roster with Isaiah, and Al, and everyone else. And of course, there was Coach Stevens: Not just for the relationship that we’ve built off the court — but also for the one that we started building on the court, all of those years ago, in Indiana.”
In the article, Hayward refers to the two years he spent with Brad Stevens at Butler. In that time Stevens coached Butler and Hayward to the 2010 NCAA Championship game against Duke. However with only seconds left and down by two, Hayward barely missed a game-winning half-court shot and it has haunted him and sports fans ever since.
And that unfinished business we had together, back in 2010, when I left Butler for the NBA … as far as I’m concerned, all of these years later, we still have it:
And that’s to win a championship.
Hayward not only sees this team as another chance with Stevens but as a way to propel his own career. In a clogged conference and a smaller market, Utah could never propel him to the notoriety he desires. Additionally, Hayward can be on a team that competes for the Eastern Conference title for potentially another decade.
Haywards signing enables both parties to have a better chance of success. Especially in the case of the Celtics who needed another offensive option. While the offense will likely still be revolved around Isaiah Thomas, Hayward gives them another dominant offensive and defensive presence for when Thomas sits.
However, to sign him Boston will need to dump at least one of their key role players- more than likely one in the shape of Marcus Smart or Jae Crowder. While not difference-making players, they both serve important purposes and are valuable to the way Boston plays. Veteran guard Avery Bradley is an outside candidate to be traded however he may make the most sense.
For the past two seasons, Smart has been the focal point of the Celtics defense. On the other hand, Crowder has been a versatile two-way player on one of the best contracts in the league. Although with multiple players that can play positions 2-4 Smart and Crowder have become redundant. Smart’s inabilities and inconsistency offensively make him expendable.
Although at just 23, the Celtics may be giving up on a guy with worlds of potential. Along with being just 23, Smart has taken a leadership role in working with some of the younger players. Last year’s rookie Jaylen Brown can attest to the importance of his mentorship.
On the other hand, Bradley is on an expiring deal along with Smart and Thomas and the Celtics can’t pay all three. However, Bradley is the best two-way talent on the roster and certifiably the best defender.
Someone need slapped … Avery Bradley ain't make one team ? ? fuxk outa heaaaa
— CJ McCollum (@CJMcCollum) June 26, 2017
Bradley may be the odd man out when it comes to getting paid next summer. Given how much he may get on the open market, Boston would be wise to try to get something for Bradley while they can. As good as he is, his size limits him on both ends of the court. If he didn’t play alongside a pg that was 5’9” his height wouldn’t be as much of an issue. Unfortunately, that is the case and with Thomas and Bradley in the back court, they’ll always be at a disadvantage against the better teams.