Boston Celtics fans woke up on Independence Day to fantastic news. Utah Jazz fans didn’t take to that news as well. Gordon Hayward is reuniting with his coach at Butler, Brad Stevens, in Beantown. The 4 year, $128 million pact still needs some roster tinkering to be finalized, but it’s happening. It is the second year that Boston has lured an All-Star free agent to the club. After years of swinging and missing on such endeavors, it feels good. Nevertheless, Trader Danny still has some work do if the C’s are going to push through to that next level. Gordon Hayward cannot be the final addition if they have any ambition of beating Cleveland, let alone toppling Golden State for the NBA crown.
Hayward was one of the big fish in the free-agent pond this summer. It seemed destined that he was going to choose Boston, but there always seemed to be a contingency necessary. First, they needed to trade for Paul George. That fell through much to the dismay of green teamers everywhere. Now to make Hayward’s $32 million yearly salary fit, some amalgamation of Jae Crowder, Avery Bradley, and Marcus Smart need to find new homes. Also, Tyler Zeller, the man who beat Hayward for Indiana’s Mr. Basketball in 2008, got the ax. But what can Ainge get for these players? Has he held on to them for too long? Are their values diminished to the point that returns will be limited? These are all valid questions going forward.
Frankly, I don’t have much in the way of answers. Most of the options Boston had to move any of the threesome have dried up. Blake Griffin surprisingly re-upped in the former Lob City. Paul Millsap said yes to Denver’s dress. The media’s focus now turns to Memphis’ Marc Gasol. It seems to be a long shot as well as a move that deviates from the previous pursuits. As the league shades more and more towards small ball, wing forwards with a shot and passing ability are premiums. Al Horford can be that too an extent, but his shot is still developing. That is weird to say for a 31-year-old, but he set a career high in three-point attempts per game last season. It is a necessity in today’s NBA, and Horford is choosing adaptation rather than obsoletion.
Gasol’s three-ball attempts spiked last season as well. He shot 38.8% on 3.64 attempts per last season. His previous best for 3PA per game was 0.21. While that is all well and good, Gasol is still an out and out center. He doesn’t help the logjam out on the wings. Any talks are in the “wildly speculative” phase anyhow, so let’s table this one for a minute.
What can Boston do with their current assets to not have the Hayward signing just be a solidification of silver medal status in the Eastern Conference? Despite my allegiance, it must be said that Kristaps Porzingis being traded is still a possibility. Phil Jackson’s departure has lessened the likelihood of such a move, but James Dolan isn’t a man to be trusted with nice things. The Knicks haven’t had a full compliment of draft picks in a decade, so a pool of picks including the Brooklyn pick and possibly the Lakers or Grizzlies one in the future, in addition to one or two of the gotta go trio, could sway the Knicks into a full nuclear meltdown. Porzingis would give Brad Stevens a roster flexibility hard-on previously unseen by mankind. There are also less tantalizing options for the interim.
LaMarcus Aldridge still wants out in San Antonio. The feeling seems to be mutual with R.C. Buford and Gregg Popovich. Old friends Brandon Bass and Jared Sullinger know Boston, but are both coming off their worst seasons as professionals. Could either be a stopgap? Is a stopgap even worth it if you are in win-now mode?
In conclusion, Gordon Hayward’s arrival in Boston is something to celebrate. Don’t deprive yourself of that if you are a Celtics fan. But in the same breath, don’t delude yourself into thinking that he is what will put you over the top in this current NBA. Many people have rained vitriol on Danny Ainge this summer for his lack of trigger pulling. Gordon Hayward was a mighty fine opening salvo, but realistically the chamber needs to be emptied if Boston is going to fully transform from the best of the rest to a truly legitimate title contender. Gordon Hayward isn’t the final piece of the puzzle. And nor should he be.