Charlotte Hornets: Will Gordon Hayward prove to be worth it?

Boston Celtics Gordon Hayward (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
Boston Celtics Gordon Hayward (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images) /

Will the Gordon Hayward addition prove to be worthwhile for the Charlotte Hornets? 

The Gordon Hayward sign-and-trade is official. The Boston Celtics are sending Hayward and two second-round picks to the Charlotte Hornets in exchange for a traded player exception, according to Shams Charania of The Athletic.

Hayward’s contract will be worth four-years and a total of $120 million and will take him through to his age-34 season. He now joins Kevin Durant and LeBron James as the only players to sign multiple-year $30-plus million deals.

To make the deal work, Charlotte had to waive Nicolas Batum’s contract which is in its final year and worth $27.1 million. Since it’s a waive and stretch; that number will be extrapolated out across three seasons worth of dead money.

More from Sir Charles In Charge

It’s not too far of a leap of the imagination to consider it a part of the Hayward deal since it wouldn’t be possible without removing Batum’s contract. Factor that in and Hayward will be making roughly $39 million for the first three seasons and just $30 million in the last.

That’s a lot of money.

On its own, Hayward will be the 20th highest-paid player next season (tied with Kyle Lowry) but if you think of him in the $39 million range, only seven players make more annually.

But what does Charlotte get for their troubles?

We all know how unlucky Hayward has been with injuries since he started in Boston. Like literally minutes into his tenure with the team.

And since he first broke his leg, it has been downhill and hardly his fault at all. This past season was his best with the Celtics, averaging 17.5 points, 6.7 rebounds, and 4.1 assists in 52 appearances.

His time in the Orlando bubble was rather lackluster but you could guess what happened: he got injured.

Charlotte will likely get a better guy than the one we’ve seen in Boston since he won’t have to compete for minutes and shots with Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown, two younger players who you would excuse the Celtics for playing ahead of the injury-riddled older wing.

Let’s say he jumps back up to the 20-point-a-night Hayward and plays most of the wing minutes for the Hornets. That’s great. But how does that help Charlotte win their first NBA Championship?

After drafting LaMelo Ball, the Hornets now have one blue-chip, elite young talent on their roster who has a reasonable chance to develop into a superstar if all breaks right.

LaMelo is 19 years old, has warts all over his game, and is almost definitely going to experience some growing pains in his first few seasons with the ball. But that’s the benefit of being a bad team: you don’t care if he makes mistakes because you’re not in a must-win situation or even better, he makes you worse in the first few years and you get another high draft pick and take another bite at the lottery apple.

Hayward also gets in the way of developing some of the younger wings behind him. Since he’ll be absorbing 30-plus minutes on the wing, that’s less time for [insert young prospect] to play. If Sam Hinkie had brought in a 30-year-old to play on The Process-era Sixers, that player might’ve stunted the growth of Hollis Thompson, Chris Johnson, and Robert Covington. Only one of those players stuck in the NBA, but the Hayward signing likely doesn’t even let the team look at their lesser crop of wings.

The counterargument there is that one of the reasons Hinkie’s time in the NBA ended was because he couldn’t foster relationships with the players, their agents, other executives, and pretty much everyone in the league. Adding Hayward to the Hornets adds an adult, a player who has brought his own Utah Jazz teams to the playoffs as well as had some deep runs with the Celtics.

I’m all for that argument, come in as a veteran mentor, teach the younger players how to be professionals but, does that really cost you $30 million a year?

Can’t you sign Jared Dudley on the minimum and get him to do the same thing? Can’t you trade for an older player on a less desirable contract?

That there presents a whole different argument because adding Hayward vaporizes their cap space, eliminating Charlotte’s ability to take on bad contracts in exchange for draft compensation, something The Process Sixers, post-Billy King Nets, and now post-Westbrook Thunder are doing so well.

And just in case Hornets fans still have a glimmer of optimism for this signing, let’s imagine the worst-case scenario: LaMelo isn’t a superstar and he ends up either out of the league or just a backup point guard. What then?

Suddenly, you’re sitting there with Gordon Hayward on the wrong side of 30, a bunch of young players that don’t project to be All-NBA-level guys in Ball, PJ Washington, and Miles Bridges, and nowhere to go.

That’s the worst case, so Hornets fans, don’t lose too much sleep over it.

Next. NBA: Way-too-early prediction of the 16 playoff teams for the 2020-21 season. dark

And remember, the best-case scenario is Ball is great, you make the playoffs (or play-in) next season and you’re drafting 15th instead of fifth, missing out on another high draft pick and another shot at a superstar.