I still remember exactly where I was and who I was with on October 17, 2017. It was the night of the Cavaliers’ home opener for the 2017-2018 season. The Cavs were hosting the Boston Celtics, who had signed Gordon Hayward, an All-Star in his prime, to a maximum contract over the off-season. All eyes around the NBA world were tuned in to this game, to watch Celtics’ Kyrie Irving take on his former team after demanding a trade out of Cleveland to seize the opportunity to lead his own squad.
Tuning in to watch LeBron James battle his former sidekick, fans were excited, but they had no idea what would happen next. Less than five minutes into his first season as a Celtic, Gordon Hayward would soar to catch a lob from Irving, only to come crashing down on his own ankle, along with a crack so loud it was clearly heard through the basket microphone. One of the most gruesome injuries we’ve seen in the modern NBA, five minutes into the new year, Gordon Hayward’s season would end.
Hayward returned for the 2018-2019 season, but he was not the same player that signed the dotted line on the maximum contract. Since returning from injury, Hayward has left a lot to be desired. His play on the floor has deteriorated significantly, not only no longer looking in All-Star form, but even to the point of losing his starting job to Marcus Morris, an above-average role player.
The Celtics are one game away from being eliminated in the second round of the playoffs, and with Kyrie Irving’s departure on the free agency market all but confirmed, the Celtics are faced with an interesting situation. Boston will retain the majority of their core and all of their promising young players. Their biggest issue? The massively under-performing Gordon Hayward, a player off the bench eating up a large portion of their cap space, hindering them from signing top-tier free agents.
This is where Koby Altman and the Cavaliers come into play, with no feasible need for cap space in the next few seasons, the Cavs can take the blow of Hayward’s contract. The Celtics have assets the Cavaliers need, in the form of draft picks. In return, the Cavs can ship off veteran JR Smith, who was away from the team for the majority of the previous season.
JR Smith, in return for draft picks, Gordon Hayward and Gordon Hayward’s paycheck. Sounds pretty good for both sides, right? Let’s not forget that Hayward was an All-Star not-so-long-ago and in a new environment with less pressure, we could see him elevate his game to the point where his contract becomes reasonable and he can help us compete. Absorbing Gordon Hayward’s contract could help the rebuilding process leap forward and see the Cavs competing again much faster than we anticipated.