There are still plenty of questions that need to be answered after Gordon Hayward decided to opt-out of his $34M player option with the Boston Celtics. There’s still plenty of uncertainty about whether Hayward will sign with another team or agree to a sign-and-trade.
In my opinion, and I hope to God I’m wrong, I think Hayward is going to end up walking for nothing. This would be the worst-case scenario for the Celtics here, but that’s just how it goes sometimes. If this is what ends up happening, the Celtics don’t get any extra cap space. They will have their MLE to use in free agency, but not much else.
The Celtics will be limited with who they can add in free agency. They’ll be targeting veterans who add valuable experience and big men who will fill out the rotation. If Hayward leaves, they need to target wings and bigs to fill the hole that he leaves behind.
I believe the Celtics should target a few players to “replace” Hayward: Danilo Gallinari, Paul Millsap, Serge Ibaka, Jerami Grant, and Christian Wood. Some of these players will be much harder to acquire than others, but if Hayward does indeed walk away, Danny Ainge could pull something off.
Danilo Gallinari would be incredible on the Celtics. His ability to play multiple positions and putting the ball into the basket with ease would make him a great player to throw in alongside the starters. He’d fit perfectly next to Tatum and Brown.
Paul Millsap and Serge Ibaka are two veterans that would bring years of experience to the team. Millsap is a smart, all-around forward that can do a little of everything. Last season, he shot a career-high 43% from three, so it’s great to see he’s added a three-point shot as he’s aged.
Serge Ibaka brings championship experience and a powerful defensive presence to the Celtics. He can stretch the floor, guard multiple positions, and quite frankly, would fit in with any team he plays for. Boston fans would be more than ecstatic if Ibaka signed with the Celtics.
Jerami Grant is an underrated, all-around player that will do whatever is asked of him. Grant can play and guard multiple positions as well as shoot the ball at a high percentage. The Celtics may have to do some convincing for Grant to take a little less than what he might get offered by other teams, but they can offer him a starting position on a championship-contending team.
Christian Wood is somebody that would be an instant spark for the Boston Celtics. After Detroit traded Andre Drummond, Wood started to go off. The 24-year-old forward found himself averaging 22 points and 10.2 rebounds a game while shooting 54 percent from the field and 37 percent from behind the arc. Wood was somebody the Celtics targeted at the trade deadline, and that same interest may be there once free agency begins.
The Celtics will have some big shoes to fill if Gordon Hayward does indeed leave Boston and signs with another team. They’re not only going to miss his 17 points and four assists a night, but they’re also going to miss his all-around defense and ability to score the ball efficiently.
It’ll take more than one person to make up for what the Celtics are losing, but they will have a few options to choose from. Danny Ainge must be aggressive and grab somebody in free agency if this is the hand he’s ultimately dealt.
Photo: AP Photo/Michael Dwyer