After days of waiting, Gordon Hayward has finally made a decision to sign a 4yr/128m deal with the Boston Celtics (via Shams Charania). Hayward leaves behind Utah, where he spent 7 seasons playing for the Jazz. Hayward got significantly better in every season he played for Utah, and at age 27, his best days might be in a Celtics uniform. Although the addition of Hayward is nice, the Celtics are still far away from competing with the Cavaliers and Warriors.
Hayward led the Jazz to 51 wins and a first-round win over the Clippers. He averaged 21.9 PPG, which led the Jazz. Hayward led his team to the 5-seed in the West with 51 wins, while the Celtics won 53 games and got the 1-seed in the Eastern Conference. By joining the East, Hayward has a better chance to make the All-Star team and go deeper in the playoffs, even if the Celtics aren’t much better than the Jazz.
Adding a second star doesn’t mean anything for the Celtics, and it certainly doesn’t lock a trip to the Eastern Conference Finals. The two teams that will compete with Boston to play Cleveland in the Conference Finals (Washington and Toronto) both have two stars (John Wall+ Brad Beal and Kyle Lowry +Demar Derozan) who happen to be two of the best dynamic duo’s you will find in this league. Lowry and Derozan have 204 regular season wins together and Wall and Beal have 209 wins together.
To make a run for the NBA Finals, a supporting cast is necessary, just ask the Warriors (Andre Iguodala and Shaun Livingston) and the Cavs (Tristan Thompson, Kevin Love, J.R. Smith, etc.). With the signing of Hayward, the Celtics will have just over 20 million dollars in cap space next summer with Isaiah Thomas, Marcus Smart, and Avery Bradley becoming free agents. And because of that, there have been rumors that the Celtics have been trying to move Smart and Jae Crowder, and the Celtics just allowed center Kelly Olynyk to become a UFA (Unrestricted Free Agent).
Right now, the Celtics lack a true frontcourt presence. Al Horford (6’10”) is a true power forward and is not a great rebounder or interior defender. And with Amir Johnson signing with the 76ers, the Celtics don’t have a starting power forward or any solid backups in the frontcourt. The three other teams that the Celtics have to compete with in the Eastern Conference all have average to great frontcourts. The Celtics currently don’t have much of a frontcourt. Also, the Celtics have 4 great small forwards (Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown, Jae Crowder, and Hayward), so they will have to move at least one of those guys (probably Crowder).
Although the Celtics are not ready to make a splash yet, they are in a good place. With 7 first round picks in the next 2 years, the Celtics certainly have assets. And, with the small forward dilemma, whoever the Celtics trade can get a big return (Crowder’s on a great deal and Brown/Tatum are blossoming stars). But, GM Danny Ainge has proven to be cautious with the Celtics’ assets.
While the Celtics’ problems seem to be fixable, all of the proposed solutions are hypothetical situations. The Celtics have had their chances to acquire another star and haven’t. Picks and young talent doesn’t guarantee star players, as seen by the inability to acquire Jimmy Butler and Paul George. And in these days, top-5 draft picks are nice, but most of the drafted players these days are 3-4 year projects. Although Hayward is a step in the right direction, the Celtics are still ways away from Golden State and Cleveland.