Celtics

Could a third team get involved with a Gordon Hayward sign-and-trade?

(Photo by Issac Baldizon/NBAE via Getty Images)

The longer the wait continues on a Gordon Hayward sign-and-trade possibility, the likelier it looks that there will be some kind of eventual deal in play for the Celtics and Hornets to land Boston a trade exception and/or player(s) in exchange for some draft compensation in some form.

A simple version of the deal is Charlotte still stretching Nicolas Batum’s contract ($27 million) and then demanding some draft compensation from Boston in exchange for facilitating the sign-and-trade. Whether this type of deal gets done simply comes down to whether the Celtics and Hornets can find some common ground on draft compensation heading back to the Hornets. How much is a $30 million trade exception worth to the Celtics? Two second-round picks? A protected first-round pick? The Hornets have all the leverage here so it will be interesting to see how much they demand in exchange and what Ainge's walkaway point is.

However, as the days drag on here with no roster movement from both sides in terms of finalizing their own contracts, the odds increase of a deal that involves both teams or perhaps goes beyond two teams in a sign-and-trade. There are still a few teams around the league that have big trade exceptions (Thunder) or significant cap room (Knicks, Hawks (if Bogdanovic offer gets matched)) that could potentially factor into a hypothetical sign-and-trade scenarios. How exactly could involving a third team in a potential sign-and-trade help out both the Celtics and Hornets? Let’s look through a few hypotheticals.

Thunder

This is probably the most likely option since their roster has been a revolving door all offseason as they accumulate draft picks for a rebuild. They should still have a sizable trade exception ($15 million) once they complete the Al Horford trade with the Sixers and they have another big one after trading Kelly Oubre Jr. to the Warriors. If the Hornets don’t want to stretch Batum and take the dead cap hit for the next three years on their books, the Celtics and Hornets could try to convince Sam Presti to take on Cody Zeller’s $15 million expiring contract into their big trade exception for some draft compensation. That would open up some big cap room for the Hornets to absorb Hayward’s deal and also spend on another free agent big to replace Zeller. The price point here would be key for the Celtics. Zeller shouldn’t have any trade value at 15 million but he’s still a decent player so the Thunder could try to flip him again for more value eventually on top of getting some picks from Boston for doing the initial deal.

The other way the Thunder could still get involved here is by sending another useful player out to Boston as part of a three-team