Gordon Hayward’s rise in the NBA, when only considering economics is quite the precipitous one. This last doozy of a contract appears to be the bookend to what was an interesting tenure with the Celtics, and I say interesting because, well, he got a pay raise while shedding his prime years. While fantasy isn’t really driven by these factors, I think its worth noting that one of the most non-performing-performers received such a contract, and I think its worth asking: Is Michael Jordan seeing something in Gordon Hayward that we aren’t? While the simple answer is probably “No, Jordan is just a sh*tty GM,” I did want to try and elaborate on what we can expect from Hayward in a Hornets uniform and whether or not a four-year deal of over $120 million fully guaranteed is justified. Spoiler alert! It’s not… but maybe you shouldn’t care? Let’s find out after the jump!
So I’ll give Hayward some credit this year. Obviously we have major caveats going on right now and previously with COVID and the Bubble, so sometimes you can just take the easy way out and establish that a lot of factors this year affected a lot of players. This is true, though tough to gauge. Regardless, some things stand out about Hayward, the season, and the Bubble, and that’s pretty much the fact that he, at best, was always the fifth best player on the team. In addition, if memory serves right, he was supposed to help the Celtics add another chip to their historic collection, but that obviously never came to fruition. And quite frankly, I don’t see the Hornets in that conversation quite yet as well. And on a macro level, Hayward now takes up roughly 33% of Charlotte’s cap. Yikes.
Ignoring the rest of the roster though, as we can easily do, not just because it’s the Hornets, but, you know, fantasy basketball, we can find reasons to still want a player like this on our team. This is a player who once averaged 5.4 points a game, slowly building into the 20.0+ PPG player he is today. Of course there was the horrific ankle injury back in 2017 starting a domino effect that led to missing 31 of 45 playoff games in three seasons.
Now heading into his 11th season, he’s coming off a year where he went 17.5/6.7/4.1 in 52 games. Before a broken hand injury earlier in the year, he was most likely heading to his second All-Star game. And while the injury concerns still remain, the salary concerns are thankfully something we don’t have to care about. And when you don’t, you find a player who shot at least 50% from the field, 35% from past the three-point arch, and 85% from the free-throw line. You want to know the only other six players to achieve those thresholds the last five years? Kevin Durant, Malclm Brogdon, Steph Curry, Kawhi Leonard, and Karl-Anthony Towns. Pretty good group to be in if you ask me.
And while Michael Jordan may have some questions to answer as this contract ages, I really dig the fact that Hayward is going to a team where he can soak in playing time. Again, injury propensity is a major factor here, but on paper, I see plenty of value from sustainable minutes in this particular rotation, and I believe that Devonte’ Graham, Terry Rozier, and LaMelo Ball all complement each other very well. In fact, the flexibility of Hayward on the offensive ball could create much needed freedom for the other players to find space on the floor.
Don’t get me wrong, there are a bunch of negatives here through the fantasy microscope, and even moreso from a pure NBA fan standpoint. I’d be worried about a number of issues, both past and present. But even with the potential missed time from injury, and a brand new system, environment to adjust to, there could be some factors at work that keep Hayward in check. But the price should be just right for you to dabble and see if he can build on the stable and multi-category production he’s willing to offer.
Air Jordan is probably banking on this. But for you, Air Hayward will come much much cheaper.
Jay is a longtime Razzball everything who consumes an egregious amount of Makers Mark as a vehicle to gain wisdom and augment his natural glow. Living in the D.C. area, he also likes spending time visiting the local parks and feeding lettuce to any turtles he encounters, including Mitch McConnell. You can follow him @jaywrong.