NBA All-Star Gordon Hayward agreed to terms on a deal to join the Boston Celtics, according to Hayward himself on The Player's Tribune. Hayward narrowed down his free agency choices between the Celtics, the Miami Heat, and re-signing with the Utah Jazz, taking meetings with all three. The first-time All-Star this year put up averages of 21.9 points (career-high), 5.4 rebounds (career-high), and 3.5 assists on 51% shooting from the field.
Hayward has long been linked to the Celtics after attending Butler University where current Celtics head coach, Brad Stevens, took Butler to back-to-back championship games in 2010 and 2011. Throughout the whole process, many fans believed that Hayward's ties with Stevens would be a big factor in the decision process. It doesn't hurt that without Hayward, Boston nabbed the #1 seed while also making it to the Eastern Conference Finals. Adding him along with #3 overall pick Jayson Tatum can only help Boston's growth as a team.
With Paul George and Jimmy Butler being traded to the Western Conference, the Eastern Conference is looking more and more like the Leastern Conference, and this also could have played a role in Hayward's decision. Making All-Star teams is looking like a bloodbath in the West, while the path to the Eastern Conference All-Star team appears to be a walk in the park. Boston provides Hayward the rare opportunity of pursuing a championship, propelling his individual brand, and long-term sustainability.
The Miami Heat were an intriguing opportunity for Hayward as he would have been the #1 option on offense while being paired with Goran Dragic and Hassan Whiteside. Re-signing with the Utah Jazz also would have been a good option for Hayward, for the team just traded for point guard Ricky Rubio. The Jazz have had an unstable point guard rotation in recent years due to health and other factors. Playing with the best defensive center in the league, Rudy Gobert, while not having to relocate as well could have been big pulls to stay with the Jazz. In the end, though, there's no conceivable way for Utah to make it to the Finals through the Golden State Warriors and the strengthened Western Conference. Hayward also would have had even more difficulty making All-Star teams on a yearly basis.
On the other hand, with Boston, Hayward is poised to join a team that can maximize his talents. Although he'll be playing with Isaiah Thomas who posted a career-high usage percentage (number of possessions that end up with a player scoring or assisting), Boston's system is predicated on ball movement. Thomas had to chuck out of necessity due to being one of the few players on that roster who could create his own shot. By adding Hayward, pressure is alleviated off of Thomas who would have more freedom to play off-ball at times.
In the Playoffs, it was easier for teams to game plan to beat the Celtics: contain Isaiah Thomas in the pick-and-roll and then force the other guys to out-shoot you. Now with Hayward, the "other guys" are a lot stronger. This added dimension to the team's offense will prove to be hard to beat. Adding Hayward to a team that already stole a game in the Eastern Conference Finals will make Boston formidable in the short term as well as the long term with all of the team's future assets.
Boston still will need to make some minor moves to carve out max cap space, but these additional roster moves will not be too hard to execute. Celtics fans may have to deal with losing players such as Kelly Olynyk and Avery Bradley, but if that's the price for adding Gordon Hayward, the All-Star, it's an easy pill to swallow. Three years after it was promised by majority owner, Boston finally got its fireworks.