It’s no secret that the Celtics could use an additional sharpshooter this offseason. Injuries exposed Boston’s lack of depth on that front in the Eastern Conference Finals, as Miami dared Marcus Smart and others to beat them beyond the arc with a 2-3 zone. The Celtics weren’t able to make them pay consistently enough on that front, especially during crunch time, leading to their postseason exit.
While there will be many ways for the Celtics to address their shooting issues this offseason (draft, free agency), the trade market is a place where the team must also do its due diligence. That involves taking a look at every name that may become available and one notable player on that front this offseason could be Kings shooting guard Buddy Hield.
The four-year veteran out of Oklahoma would easily be the best shooter to hit the trade market this offseason after knocking down 41 percent of his 3-point attempts over his career. Jason Jones of the Athletic reported earlier this month that Hield has been frustrated with head coach Luke Walton for much of the past season, to the point where he not answering the coach’s phone calls this offseason. He has also spoken about his unhappiness with being moved out of Sacramento’s starting five midway through the season and fueled trade rumors by 'liking' a post that suggested he could be dealt to Philly.
However, the Kings very much remain in the driver’s seat when it comes to Hield’s future after signing him to a four-year, $94 million extension last October that kicks in for the 20-21 season. That pact ensures the shooting guard has no serious leverage at the moment to force himself out of town.
Sacramento does have another prominent restricted free agent shooting guard in Bogdan Bogdanovic hitting the open market this offseason though and investing too much cash in that position may be something the team is hesitant to do, especially if the team's spending is reduced in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic. Needless to say, the Kings will be listening to offers for Hield if they want to keep Bogdanovic around.
So should the Celtics be a team that comes calling? Bill Simmons and Zach Lowe floated an idea of a Gordon Hayward, Romeo Langford and 2020 first round pick for Hield swap on Friday on the BS Podcast. Let’s take a closer look at that trade structure to see if that (or any other deal) might make sense for the Celtics to pursue.
Does Hayward for Hield make sense for Boston?
If the Celtics want to trade for a big name like Hield this offseason, they really only have two options in terms of big names that are movable on the roster that could match salaries: Marcus Smart and Gordon Hayward.
Smart is making just $13.4 million next season, so some filler salary would need to be added to get closer to $20 million matching salary to make any trade package work. However, moving an first-team All-Defensive guard for a player in Hield who is an incredibly weak defender would put Brad Stevens in a very tough spot in the backcourt. Kemba Walker is already an undersized defender that can be exposed in the postseason regularly and adding Hield to that mix in place of Smart could help opposing starting guards have breakout performances against the Celtics on a nightly basis. Simply put, the upgrade offensively probably wouldn’t be enough to justify the defensive downgrade.
That brings us to Hayward. The Celtics' first big move this offseason will have to try to figure out his intentions for next season and beyond. If they can engage with him on an extension for a sizable paycut, that’s an avenue worth pursuing. However, if he opts in for $34 million next season and shows no real interest in staying in Boston beyond 2021 in extension talks, a trade will need to be considered.
The problem for Boston is that even if Hayward walks next offseason with his $34 million coming off of Boston’s books, the team will not have significant cap room to replace him. By then, Jayson Tatum’s contract extension will have kicked in and he along with Jaylen Brown and Kemba Walker will be eating up a large chunk of Boston’s cap room.
Kemba: $36 million
Tatum: $31.25 million (conservative estimate at 25 percent max)
Brown: $24.8 million
Smart: $14.3 million
Four players $106.9 million
Leftover rookie contracts and any other free agent signings the Celtics make this offseason that last beyond 2021 will ensure the C’s have no cap room to work with — as the salary cap for 2022 is expected to be no higher than $125 million.
The question is then would Hield be the right type of guy to target for Boston if Hayward trades are being explored? Let’s first take a look at his career numbers.
44% FG, 41% 3pt, 86% FT, 20.7 PPG, 5.3 RPG, 3.5 APG, 1.1 SPG, 2.2 TO/G, 2.2 FTA/G
Hield contract info:
2020-21: $24.4 million
2021-22: $22.4 million
2022-23: $20.5 million
2023-24: $18.6 million
Overview: The pluses here for Boston are the contract length and descending salary structure. Brown and Tatum’s salaries will be going up by the year as they get older so Hield’s salary going down through each year of the deal will help Boston’s budget. Getting a player locked in for that long is a plus.
However, there are three main impediments I see that should keep the Celtics steering clear of Hield.
1. Allocation of resources: I have concerns that Hield is worth a contract extension already given his defensive struggles throughout his career. The Celtics would surely love to get a shooting upgrade, but would it really be worth paying a guy over $20 million per year on a roster with Kemba Walker, Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown already? Spending so much on a third/fourth option that doesn’t have the defensive versatility/IQ of Hayward would put the C’s in a bind defensively on many nights. He hasn’t played in a postseason game yet and his defensive woes led to him being brought off the bench last season. Elite teams could go at Walker/Hield for the better part of 48 minutes in any postseason games and that would limit the value of a guy like Hield. If Walker wasn’t already under contract with Boston for the next three years, I think you could make a stronger case to bring Hield in. However, the C’s locking in another undersized guard for the long-term and giving up several assets for him beyond Hayward seems like a poor idea.
2. Would Hield be happy with a secondary role in Boston? He wasn’t pleased being