Gordon Hayward will be continuing his NBA career as a member of the Charlotte Hornets. As for the Boston Celtics, they're not losing their former star for nothing as the two teams completed a sign-and-trade for Hayward, the Hornets announced Sunday. Boston sends two future second-round picks (2023 and 2024) in exchange for a conditional 2022 second-round pick. The deal reportedly creates a $28.5 million trade exception for Boston, the largest in NBA history. Hayward had a player option for $34.1 million with the Boston Celtics for the 2020-21 NBA season that he turned down in favor of free agency. He then agreed to a four-year, $120 million dollar deal with the Hornets.
Charlotte will be Hayward's third NBA home after stints with the Jazz and Celtics. Charlotte's interest in Hayward isn't necessarily new, as he signed an offer sheet with the Hornets in 2014 as a restricted free agent, but the Jazz ultimately matched the offer and kept him in Utah. Hayward went on to sign a four-year, $128 million deal with the Celtics in 2017. The Indiana Pacers and New York Knicks were also both reportedly interested in signing Hayward.
Hayward, 30, has worked continuously to get back to the peak of his powers after suffering a devastating, season-ending ankle injury during his first game with the Celtics in Oct. 2017. After starting in just 18 total games during the 2018-19 season, Hayward started in all 52 regular-season games that he played with the Celtics last season. He averaged nearly nine more minutes of playing time per game, and he increased his per-game scoring average by six points (from 11.5 to 17.5). Unfortunately, another ankle injury limited Hayward to just five appearances during the postseason, but he was able to return for Boston's conference finals matchup with Miami.
There was some speculation that Hayward could remain in Boston on a new deal, but that was always unlikely given the fact that Boston is already well established on the perimeter, thanks to Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown. In Charlotte, Hayward will have a larger role, and he quickly becomes one the faces of a franchise that lost its star player, Kemba Walker, in free agency last offseason. In addition to Hayward, the Hornets also have a lot of young talent, including Devonte' Graham, Miles Bridges, P.J. Washington, and LaMelo Ball, the third overall pick from the 2020 NBA Draft.