The possibility of the Chicago Bulls making a move to free up the cap space to sign Gordon Hayward doesn’t seem too good. It’s a nice thought, though.
One of the talks of the town around the NBA landscape in this cycle of free agency is the now former Boston Celtics standout wing Gordon Hayward, who opted out of his player option this week. Although it doesn’t really sound like there is a developed market (maybe outside of the Indiana Pacers) in this cycle of free agency yet for the veteran Hayward, the Chicago Bulls could be a viable destination outside of one major issue.
The price tag that Hayward is likely to command in this cycle of free agency is probably over what newly hired executive vice president of basketball operations Arturas Karnisovas and the Bulls could offer him. The Bulls lost out on their opportunity to get a player like Hayward into the mix to fill wing depth when veteran small forward Otto Porter Jr. picked up his player option for the 2020-21 season this week, worth around $29 million for the year.
The Bulls already have one overpaid wing in the mix. If Hayward were guaranteed to remain healthy over the course of the life of his hypothetical contract with the Bulls (again imagining in a different universe that they sign him), then he might be worth the risk. But that’s an assumption that no team can make that’s planning on pursuing Hayward in free agency.
The 30-year-old 6-foot-7 and 225 pound forward missed almost the entire 2017-18 season, and 10 games again in 2018-19. He also missed roughly two-dozen regular season games this past campaign. Not to mention all of the playoff games he missed due to injury again to cap last season.
When Hayward is healthy, he is still very productive. During the shortened 2019-20 regular season, Hayward did play in 52 games for the Celtics (all of which he started in). And he averaged 17.5 points per game, 6.7 rebounds, 4.1 assists, 0.7 steals, and 0.4 blocks. Hayward shot an impressive 50.0 percent from the field, 38.3 percent from beyond the arc, and 85.5 percent from the free-throw line.
The Celtics know this quite well that Hayward is still a very solid player when healthy. It is just a bit of a surprise, to say the least, that Hayward opted out of the final year of his contract (with the salary worth north of $32.5 million). Maybe there is already a suitor out there for Hayward that is planning on giving him less money per year, but more guaranteed over the life of the entire contract.
The specific date that Hayward declined his player option for the 2020-21 season was Nov. 19. That was one day before the start of this cycle of free agency.
It is worth noting too that Stadium reported on the afternoon of Nov. 20 that a potential serious suitor could be arising in the Bulls divisional foe Pacers. Since Hayward is a native of Indianapolis, IN, and the Pacers have the necessary cap space, this could actually work out well for both parties in the end.
If the Pacers don’t wind up being a viable landing spot for Hayward this offseason, then if there was a way, the Bulls should look into signing him. He provides more consistent production on the wing than any player on the current Bulls roster.
The Bulls would likely have to configure a trade for someone like OPJ, and fast, if they were to make the cap room for Hayward. And the viability of pulling off an OPJ trade, or anything to provide the necessary cap room to sign Hayward off the free agent market, seems very limited right now.