Gordon Hayward provides this year’s NBA Fireworks
The Fourth of July has become more than just a day for eating hot dogs, drinking beer, and watching fireworks for fans of the NBA. The league has co-opted Independence Day as the day as blockbuster acquisition day. Last year Kevin Durant declared his intentions to leave the Thunder and become the final piece of the NBA Voltron that was last year’s Golden State Warriors. This year Gordon Hayward, after an infuriating couple of hours of will he/won’t he, made known his intentions to sign with the Boston Celtics on a four-year, $128 million deal.
Earlier in the day, there were reports that Hayward had made his decision to sign with Boston, but these early reports were shot down. This led to much hullabaloo on Twitter among NBA writers, many of which cracked jokes about Hayward putting some finishing touches on a Players Tribune piece, and because this is 2017, when people make jokes about unrealistic hypotheticals at their own peril, Hayward indeed had a Players Tribune piece ready to post when he made his decision. We live in interesting times.
The Hayward signing, along with a three-team deal that sends Danilo Gallinari to the Clippers and Jamal Crawford, Diamond Stone, a 2018 first-round pick and cash to the Hawks, felt like the final big moves in what has been an extremely busy free-agency period in the NBA.
The Celtics and their General Manager Danny Ainge have been under a lot of pressure to turn their mountain of good young players and draft picks into a team that can truly contend for a title. We still are not clear on exactly what happened in the Paul George deal sweepstakes that let him slip away from the Celtics. Ainge took a lot of heat for not getting that deal done, especially when George ended up getting traded to the Thunder for Victor Oladipo and Domantas Sabonis, a haul that seemed much less enticing than what the Celtics could have potentially offered.
Going out and getting Gordon Hayward, one of the best shooting guards in the league, will go a long way in restoring confidence in Ainge’s long-term plans for the organization. Hayward averaged almost 22 points a game last season, shot nearly 40% from three, and plays smart defense. He is, in short, the perfect addition to Brad Stephens’ system.
There was nobody happier to hear about the Hayward signing than Celtics All-Star point guard, Isaiah Thomas. Here’s the Tweet he posted after the news broke:
He also told ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski that Hayward was, “The type of player we needed to get to the Finals. I’m excited and can’t wait to get to work.”
With the mass exodus of talent that the Eastern Conference is experiencing, there are few teams that will stand in the Celtics way to getting back to the Eastern Conference Finals. You can criticize Danny Ainge for perhaps being too stingy with Boston’s treasure trove of assets, but you can’t deny that he has put this team in a place where it can contend for years. They were able to greatly improve their team without trading away one of their five first-round picks they have in the war chest. These picks could prove valuable around the trade deadline.
If a couple of players on Golden State or Cleveland go down for the season it will be the Celtics who are best positioned to take advantage. If the status quo holds Ainge will be more than happy to play the long game with all of those potential lottery picks in the bank, and team that is at least competitive on the floor. I’m not sure there has ever been a more successful rebuild in sports history. It’s hard to have it all when it comes to competing in professional sports. You look at organizations like the Patriots and the Spurs and you wonder what kind of wizardry is going on to make them so successful in the long term.
The Celtics have built a title contender that is built to last, and they did it without a truly transcendent star on the roster. A lot of people are going to look past the Gordon Hayward signing because he is not a big name, but it’s the kind of move that puts Boston into championship contention, and thanks to the patience of Danny Ainge, they will be in a position to contend for a long time.