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Why Boston Celtics Will Be Utah Jazz's Biggest Competition for Gordon Hayward

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Why Boston Celtics Will Be Utah Jazz's Biggest Competition for Gordon Hayward
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This season's trade deadline rumor mill is churning with stories that essentially say, "So and so is interested in so and so, but a deal isn't likely."

Such is the case with the recent wave of Gordon Hayward-to-the-Boston Celtics speculation. The idea was just a whisper when Boston hired Brad Stevens—Hayward's former coach at Butler—this past summer. The connection was obvious, but a then report from Marc Stein in October implied that the young wing would presumably get an extension with the Utah Jazz:

That, of course, didn't happen, and Hayward is now heading toward restricted free agency this summer. The Jazz will have to first make him a qualifying offer of $4.6 million. After Utah does that, Hayward is free to explore the market, but the Jazz can match any offer he receives.

Hayward is likely to get a deal from someone that will be tough for the Jazz to match. In November, longtime NBA writer Peter Vecsey mentioned the Phoenix Suns as one team who is quite interested in his services:

And then in January, Grantland's Bill Simmons made like Radiohead and turned the Boston whispers into shouting:

With 2.5 million followers on Twitter and a gig on ESPN's NBA Countdown, Simmons has a massive audience, so speculation from him is often perceived as more of a reality than it really is. But in this case, the pieces of the puzzle fit together too well to ignore. The Celtics are rebuilding, they have no one set in stone on the wings, and Stevens is at the helm.

It was only a matter of time before someone started to corroborate Simmons' thoughts on the situation. A. Sherrod Blakely of CSNNE.com did just that on Tuesday, saying, "The Celtics have expressed some interest in acquiring Utah's Gordon Hayward, a league source tells CSNNE.com." 

Only his report went on to say little more than, you guessed it, "So and so wants so and so, but nothing is imminent." What Blakely actually said was, "The biggest challenge appears to be finding assets currently on the Celtics' roster that are appealing to the Jazz."

Of course, there really are none. So making a run at Hayward via trade doesn't make much sense. But that doesn't mean he absolutely won't become a Celtic.

If Boston can move a few pieces (i.e., Gerald Wallace and Jeff Green) this summer to create cap room, they could make Hayward an offer "he can't refuse."

The question would then be: will the Jazz match the offer?

Hayward may be struggling mightily with his shot this season (39.9 percent from the field and 29.9 percent from three-point range), but his most important contributions don't always come in the scoring department. The 6'8" wing is averaging 5.5 rebounds and five assists a game, making him one of the league's only true point forwards.

In 2013-14, the only other player in the NBA averaging at least as many points, rebounds, assists and blocks as Hayward is Kevin Durant. For that, and his popularity in Utah, general manager Dennis Lindsey sounds confident that the Jazz will be able to keep Hayward for the foreseeable future:

So while a reunion of Stevens and Hayward in Boston would be fun, it may not be likely—even if the Celtics have a better shot than anyone else. 

 

Andy Bailey covers the NBA for Bleacher Report.

 

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