Will Hayward Have a Domino Effect?
Free-agency is only one day away; and as usual, it’s difficult to tell which rumors are plausible and which are mere speculation.
It seems the list of reputable sources is getting shorter; and following Chris Broussard's justification for his All-Defensive Team votes, I’ll be taking everything he says with a grain of salt. It’s as though Woj is the only source fans can actually trust nowadays. So, that being said, I am going to pick apart a few of his recent reports, as they relate to the Celtics…
Let’s begin with Gordon Hayward. As expected, the Celtics have surfaced as one of the leading candidates to land the Utah swingman. I said it a few months ago and I’ll say it again: I am all-aboard the Hayward hype train. This is a player who has great length and versatility, allowing him to guard multiple positions, as well as win match-ups on the offensive end. Additionally, he has a very high basketball IQ.
That said, I am not going to argue, as some will, that Hayward would be an immediate upgrade over Jae Crowder. While at first glance Hayward (21.9 PPG, 3.5 AST) does appear to bring more to the table than Crowder (13.9 PPG, 2.2 AST) does at the offensive end, it is difficult to compare the two. After all, Gordon and Jae have very different styles of play and body-types. Additionally, advanced stats show that Jae Crowder is actually more efficient than Gordon Hayward in several key areas (see below). Now, that could very well change if Gordon were to play in a system such as Boston’s, where much of the pressure on him would be alleviated.
Having two players at the same position who are so useful, yet so different, could be a huge asset to the Celtics, especially given Brad and Danny’s plans to create a seemingly position-less team. The Celtics could easily choose to go small and start both Jae and Gordon night in and night out. Additionally, while it may not necessarily thrill Crowder to relinquish his starting role to Gordon Hayward, the Celtics could also simply bring Jae off the bench. Ultimately, this is where I believe Crowder would be most effective. The Boston Celtics have a strong tradition surrounding the Sixth Man role; Jae may find solace in this fact, and eventually relish the role, just as Marcus has done.
Rumor has it that if the Celtics were to sign Gordon Hayward, there is a plan in place which would allow them to subsequently finalize a deal for Paul George. This would effectively end Crowder’s tenure in Boston. I don’t have to spell out how big of a deal this would be for the Celtics; George averages 23.7 PPG, 6.6 RPG, 3.3 AST, and 1.6 STL. Additionally, George is a defensive stalwart and unlike Gordon Hayward, would be an immediate upgrade over Jae Crowder.
As the deal stands now, the Celtics are allegedly offering Indiana the Los Angeles/Sacramento pick (via Philadelphia), the ‘19 Memphis or Los Angeles pick, Jae Crowder, and Tyler Zeller or Avery Bradley (for financial purposes) in exchange for Paul George.
I would pull the trigger on this deal in a heartbeat presuming that Zeller (as opposed to Bradley) is the filler. If the Celtics were to include Avery, such a deal would be one step forward, two steps back. Sure, we’d have Paul George, one of the best players at his position; however, we would also be losing one of the best two-way guards in the league. Avery Bradley should have been awarded First Team All-Defense and there’s a good chance he’ll earn a spot at the All-Star game in the future. Additionally, it’s only a matter of time before Avery walks away with the Defensive Player of the Year Award. He’s simply too valuable of a player to give up in such a scenario.
If the Celtics are going to win a championship in the coming years, Avery is going to play a major part in that; no question. He’s one of very few players who have found success in shutting down players like Stephen Curry and Kyrie Irving. If the Celtics can get a player such as Paul George to do the same to LeBron or to slow down Kevin Durant, then the Boston Celtics are in good shape.
At the end of the day, if I’m Danny Ainge, I’m telling Indiana to take Avery off their list. And if they refuse, I walk. It’s as simple as that. There is no need to rush into anything; the Celtics have options: they have a strong team, an attractive system, plenty of future draft picks, and once again, appear to be making noise as a free-agent destination.