I would have put Hayward roughly between 30th and 40th best in the NBA — though without considering his youth and growth potential, which adds to his current value somewhat. So, he’s good. He’d be welcome on any team with his skill set.
Like many other observers, I regard Boston’s failure to land Paul George as a blessing in disguise. One year rentals are not the way to franchise successes, as a rule. Now Boston has plenty of assets and the flexibility to use them going forward.
Hayward is not going to catapult Boston into parity with the Cavs. But maybe he doesn’t have to do that. The Cavs are capable of falling off of their perch atop the East all by themselves, with front-office dysfunction, disinterest in hard training, an often lackadaisical defense, perpetual minutes mismanagement, and disinterest in the regular season, which means the skills they could have drilled during the regular season aren’t fully refined during the playoffs. The Cavs still have a loaded roster, but that’s the starting point, not the end point, of a season. They could stumble in the Eastern Conference finals next year against a well-prepared opponent.
If Boston can put in the hard work and evolve a team-style that suits them, they could do pretty well in the East. They’ll have to work hard on the defensive end. There, Thomas’ size is an out-sized liability, and I don’t know what they can do to get past that problem. Boston’s coaching staff gets paid more than I do to solve that problem, so let them get to work on it.
The East may be weaker, on average, than the West, but I see plenty of things to interest me among their teams. We can expect Toronto, Washington, and Miami to put on good shows. Philadelphia might be able to do quite a lot with their young roster. I don’t expect much out of Detroit, Orlando, Brooklyn, Charlotte or Atlanta, but maybe one or more of them will surprise me. Boston will be worth watching, and I’d watch the Cavs, if only to see what new ways they can invent to take a top-heavy roster and screw up with it during the (to them) boring regular season.
As for the Jazz, I figure Ricky Rubio replenishes about one-quarter of what they lost in George Hill and Gordon Hayward. That won’t cut it in the West. I no longer see them as a playoff team — though they could surprise us. There are usually some surprises in the NBA. Even so, they need to find assets. Maybe they can strengthen their bench with short-minute veterans; that has worked pretty well for many teams.