Celtics complete Gordon Hayward sign-and-trade deal with Hornets

(Omar Rawlings/Getty Images)

The Celtics created the largest trade exception in NBA history on Sunday after completing a sign-and-trade deal with the Charlotte Hornets that sent out Gordon Hayward, along with two second-round picks, in exchange for a conditional second-round pick from Charlotte (top-55 protected). The deal ends several days of negotiations between Boston, Charlotte and a potential third team about executing a bigger deal that didn't come to be.

Instead, after completing the two-team deal with Charlotte, the Celtics will open up a trade exception worth roughly $28 million (equal to the first year of salary in Gordon Hayward’s new contract) as part of the trade. In order to get that sizable trade exception, which will last a full year of the NBA calendar (i.e. several weeks into 2021 NBA free agency), the Celtics sent the Hornets two second-round picks, which are Boston's own second-round picks in 2023 and 2024, according to a league source. Boston will get a 2020 second-round pick back from Charlotte to complete the transaction, but that pick will likely never see the light of day in Boston since it’s a top-55 protected pick.

BSJ Analysis: The creation of this huge trade exception was the Celtics making the best out of a bad situation after losing Hayward in free agency. We covered it this weekend on why the Celtics likely passed on the return of Myles Turner and Doug McDermott from the Pacers in a potential sign-and-trade for Hayward because Boston preferred the flexibility of what they got out of Charlotte here (a $28 million trade exception), especially given that they will have a year to use it. It cost Boston two future second-round picks to pay off the Hornets to facilitate the deal, but that was far better than the alternative of Hayward walking out the door with no means to replace his salary. The Hornets also didn't play hardball here on the sign-and-trade compensation, especially after the Celtics helped Charlotte land Terry Rozier last offseason in a sign-and-trade scenario.

The trade talks between Boston and Charlotte took a few days longer than expected to finalize this week, as the Hornets sought out potential alternatives to stretching Nicolas Batum’s deal via a third team. Ultimately, a reasonable price point for them was