The Hornets just awarded Gordon Hayward one of the worst free...

The Hornets just awarded Gordon Hayward one of the worst free...
The Hornets just awarded Gordon Hayward one of the worst free...
Gordon Hayward signed a four-year, $ 128 million contract with the Boston Celtics in 2017. At the time, he was a 27-year-old All-Star with an almost impeccable medical history. In the past three years, the following events have occurred:
  • Hayward missed 111 regular season games and 31 playoff games.
  • His per-game numbers declined on a deeper Boston roster, but his effectiveness didn’t necessarily improve with less defensive attention. Hayward’s true shooting percentage last season was 59.5 percent, the same number he posted in his last season in Utah.
  • It goes without saying, but he’s aged three years.

It’s fair to say that at the bare minimum, Hayward should be worth less today than it was in 2017. Hold Michael Jordan’s beer.

The Charlotte Hornets just gave Hayward a four-year, $ 120 million contract which, from a practical standpoint, will actually cost them plus than Hayward’s original contract with Boston. Why? Because they would forgo Nicolas Batum by using the stretch layout to create the ceiling space to sign him. It will cost them an additional $ 9 million per year for the next three seasons, bringing the total cost of acquiring Hayward to $ 147 million over four years.

Charlotte isn’t just paying more money for Hayward than Boston. He pays a higher percentage of the cap for his services. The 2017 cap was $ 99,093,000. On average, his contract costs Boston $ 32 million a year. This represents approximately 32.3% of this cap. Charlotte’s deal, with Batum factored in, will cost an average of $ 36,750,000 per year against a cap of $ 109.14 million, or about 33.4 percent, and Boston signed it assuming the cap would increase indefinitely. Charlotte signs it in an uncertain cap environment influenced by the pandemic. No matter how you cut it, the Hornets pay more for a 30-year-old Hayward than Boston for the 27-year-old version. In fact, they’re giving Hayward one of the biggest deals in basketball.

Only 22 NBA players have contracts which, in total, are worth more than $ 147 million, according to Spotrac. Of those 22 players, 15 are former All-NBA selections. Hayward is not. Of the seven who didn’t deserve the honor, five were walking out of rookie contracts when they signed with the hope they would eventually reach that level. Devin Booker, Jamal Murray, Kristaps Porzingis and De’Aaron Fox likely all have All-NBA picks going forward, and while Andrew Wiggins may not, as a former overall pick no. ° 1, the Minnesota Timberwolves were justified in assuming he might.

That leaves two other players off this list: Mike Conley and Tobias Harris. They signed their agreements during boom times. Conley was able to take over $ 150 million from the Memphis Grizzlies thanks to the peak cap in 2016. Tobias Harris took in the 2019 windfall to the tune of $ 180 million. These are perhaps the two best summers for free agents in NBA history. Looking back, we now know these are two of the worst contracts in basketball. Their teams probably understood this risk, but had no choice but to force them or lose them for nothing. Harris and Conley were able to squeeze such contracts from their teams because cap space was plentiful enough to secure them several maximum bids elsewhere as leverage.

Hayward didn’t have that much leverage. We know that only one other team with space for caps has chased him: the New York Knicks. Several reports have suggested that they were

to what Charlotte offered, and preferred a short-term offer. The Indiana Pacers were the other team in the auction, but they didn’t have the cap space to match what the Hornets put on the table. Their offer, according to , was about $ 100 million over four years. From a practical standpoint, the Hornets pay about 47% more than that. Boston, with all bird rights, could have gone over that bid to bring him back at the last second. Not only did they choose not to, but they didn’t seem at all interested in bringing Hayward back. There’s a reason they bought it in Indiana in the first place.

It was supposed to be the worst free agent market in years thanks to the COVID-induced cap freeze and the 2021-induced economy. The Hornets blew all other teams out of the water to secure Hayward. There is an element of common sense to this. If even the Knicks aren’t ready to match an offer you made, that offer might not be particularly good. The Celtics and Pacers haven’t matched him either, and they have two of the best front offices in basketball. The Hornets are the only ones to make this bet.

There is a reason for this. Injury-prone 30-year-olds are just not that valuable in the grand scheme of things unless they plan to contribute to the championship contention immediately. Hayward was doing it in Boston. This contract could have been justified for the Celtics given how far they had just won everything. Charlotte is miles away. The Hornets technically finished ninth in the Eastern Conference last season, but it was a bit of a mirage. They had the fourth worst points differential in the NBA last season, a much more predictive measure of team quality than the record.

If Hayward is healthy, he makes them a better team. This is obvious. But it remains to be seen how much better in a much deeper Eastern conference. The most likely immediate outcome of this contract is another trip to the lottery for Charlotte, but with fewer ping-pong balls. This is when the real damage to this contract begins to be felt.

Hayward deserves a big salary at 30. Will he do it at 31? Will he be 33 years old? Probably not, which raises significant questions about the timing. Devonte ‘Graham is 25 years old. Miles Bridges and PJ Washington are 22 years old. LaMelo Ball is 19 years old. By the time that core is ready to win at a high level, Hayward will not only have passed his prime, but will eat up ceiling space that could be used on players in their general age range. They won’t be ready to win with Hayward now, he will be past the age of victory when they are ready to compete with the leader. The opportunity cost, in this sense, is enormous. Even if Charlotte had waited three years to give that exact contract to a similar player, it would have made more sense given how her current squad is building.

There is an argument to be made that the Hornets have to overpay players like Hayward to play Charlotte. History supports the notion. A year ago, they eclipsed the market with a three-year contract with Terry Rozier. But there is an alternative here that the Hornets seem to have missed. They didn’t have to sign Hayward at all. The benefits were minimal. The cost is enormous. The rest of the market implicitly told them how bad this was.

It didn’t matter. The Hornets were determined to sign Gordon Hayward, so they threw caution to the wind and brought him at an even higher price than Boston paid to bring him back to his absolute prime. This deal with the Celtics didn’t work out exactly as Boston intended. The outlook for this Hornets contract is even bleaker.

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