Charlotte Hornets forward Gordon Hayward "is a name to keep an eye on" during the offseason trade market, per Michael Scotto on the HoopsHype Podcast:
"With Miles Bridges projected to earn close to, if not, a max contract, Gordon Hayward is a name to keep an eye on regarding the trade market. In talking to several executives, Hayward is viewed as a neutral asset who's a good player, but one who's been injury-prone the past three seasons."
The Hornets acquired Hayward in a sign-and-trade with the Boston Celtics in Nov. 2020 and signed him to a four-year, $120 million contract that expires after the 2023-24 season.
The 32-year-old forward has averaged 17.6 points, 5.2 rebounds and 3.8 assists during a pair of injury-shortened seasons in Charlotte.
Hayward suffered sprained left ankle ligaments on Feb. 7 against the Toronto Raptors. He returned on April 2 and played 17 minutes against the Philadelphia 76ers, but continued discomfort in his left foot forced him out indefinitely.
Rod Boone of The Charlotte Observer appeared on the podcast and gave his take on Hayward's future:
"It’s going to be one of the things to watch this offseason. Is there really a big market for a player making $30 million, who has two years on his contract left at that number and has been injured his first two seasons here? To me, that’s a team that either wants to bring him closer to home like the Pacers or a team that is in transition and feels like maybe they want to move salaries to get to where they want to go."
Hayward has certainly been productive when he's been on the court, but he's also missed 61 games over the past two years and has two seasons and $60 million left on his contract. He may not be the easiest player to move, but one NBA executive told Scotto that he believes it can be done.
"I'm sure they can trade him," the executive said in part. "I don't think they’ll get off a ton of money. They'll take players back that cost a little less."
He added: "Maybe you're able to trade him for two pieces making $10-15 million a year. I'm sure there will be a market for him because at the end of the day, he's a really good wing player."
The biggest offseason personnel question for the Hornets may revolve around restricted free agent Miles Bridges, the 24-year-old forward who broke out this season with a career-high 20.2 points and 7.0 rebounds per game. Bridges played himself into a fat contract after this season, and the Hornets should undoubtedly want him back.
But the Hornets also need a head coach after parting ways with James Borrego, who was let go despite overseeing a team that improved from 23-42 to 43-39 last year.
The Hornets have the talent core to work with though, but Hayward is the name to watch as the offseason nears.