It’s been no secret for months that Gordon Hayward wouldn’t mind going home and playing for the Pacers. His family moved back there over the summer and bought a big home and there is a clear need for a versatile wing on the roster.
Those rumors have now been stepped up as free agency begins, with Shams Charania of Stadium first reporting that the Pacers are now Hayward’s “preferred destination” as free agents begin to make moves. There will be other potential suitors to sign Hayward outright in free agency (Hawks, Knicks, Hornets) as we have covered on BSJ for weeks, but with Hayward now making his strong preference known, we are in for a bit of a staring match between Danny Ainge and the Pacers front office, especially if other suitors start using their cap room on other free agents (leaving Hayward with no walk leverage).
With Hayward opting out of his $34 million option, it’s fair to give him a range of $20-25 million as a starting salary for his next deal, so let’s try to piece together what options are on the table here and where each side stands when it comes to leverage.
What the Pacers are reportedly offering in a sign-and-trade
Myles Turner and Doug McDermott ($25.3 million in combined salary)
Why the Celtics won’t take the deal
Turner is not a good value contract in this market and while he’s better than losing Hayward for nothing, Danny Ainge knows he can squeeze more out of them if the Pacers are desperate to bring in Hayward. McDermott is a good shooting bench piece but he’s also on an expiring deal and is a big defensive liability so he isn't much of a boost for a contending team looking for versatile bench weapons for a deep postseason run. The Celtics would probably take this package over Hayward walking for nothing but Ainge probably doesn't buy that is a legitimate possibility.
What the Celtics are probably holding out for in a sign-and-trade for Hayward
One of TJ Warren, Victor Oladipo, Aaron Holiday, future first round pick
Why the Pacers are balking (for now):
Warren and Holiday are two of the team’s best trade chips with great contracts, so giving them up (with Turner to match money) in order to pay Hayward a pricy deal makes little sense for the team. Oladipo is a more reasonable ask for Boston since he’s just on an expiring contract — but the hybrid guard was an All-Star just a couple of years ago before injuries hit, so the Pacers probably think they are selling low here on him if he is healthy. A first-round pick would be a big sweetener, especially for a loaded draft next season so the Pacers are probably balking at all these possibilities for the moment.
Who holds more leverage in this spot? Celtics or Pacers?
Early on in free agency, it’s the Pacers, especially if Hayward is legitimately threatening to sign with any other suitor outright (Knicks, Hornets, Hawks) and leave the Celtics with no compensation. However, league sources have told BSJ there is a lot of skepticism about Hayward’s willingness to sign with any of those non-contenders, barring a massive contract offer. That type of deal isn’t likely to be available with such limited cap room available this offseason.
Ainge has a reason not to blink though as the rumors swirl. If he holds firm on his trade demands, alternative options are likely to