The Boston Celtics fell short of their goal of making the NBA Finals this season as they were defeated in six games by the Miami Heat in the Eastern Conference finals. However, they still had a very solid campaign and they have a lot to be optimistic about moving forward, including the fact that most of their key contributors will be back with the team next season. This includes veteran forward Gordon Hayward. Hayward, who signed a four-year contract worth $127 million with the Celtics in 2017, has a $32.4 million player option for the 2020-21 season that he is likely to exercise, according to ESPN's Tim Bontemps.
Given his age (30) and recent injury history, it's not especially surprising that Hayward would opt to exercise the option, as opposed to pursuing a new deal in free agency. By exercising the option, Hayward will get the $34 million, which might be more than he would command for a single season in a new deal. Plus, he'd also get an opportunity to audition for a new contract next offseason, either with the Celtics or another franchise. If he is able to stay healthy and look like his old self next season, Hayward will command another solid multi-year deal.
Hayward 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 October 2017. After starting in just 18 total games last season, Hayward started in all 52 regular-season games that he played with the Celtics this season. He averaged nearly nine more minutes of playing time per game this season, and he increased his per game scoring average by six points (from 11.5 last season to 17.5 this season). 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.
In addition to Hayward, all of Boston's other starters -- Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown, Kemba Walker, Daniel Theis and Marcus Smart -- are all under contract, through next season at least. Tatum, who has quickly blossomed into one of the league's best young perimeter players, is in line for a max contract extension over the offseason, and the Celtics are expected to offer it to him, per Bontemps. However, after Boston was eliminated by Miami on Sunday night, Tatum wasn't much in the mood to discuss his future with the franchise.
"I haven't even thought about that yet," Tatum replied when asked about potentially signing an extension. "I was just focused on this season. The front office and my agent gotta talk about it. But I'm not thinking about that right now. We just lost a series. Just thinking about the guys in the locker room and the games. That's what I'm thinking about. Stuff like that, going to happen, if it happens, [is] not really my concern. I'm not even thinking about that.
"I'll think about the great season we had, the great players, great job by everyone. It was a helluva year, and I enjoyed it. I appreciate everybody. This was fun. I'm not really thinking about the other stuff right now."
Tatum will be eligible for a five-year rookie-scale extension that will be worth around $160 million. So, whenever Tatum does decide to think about his future with the Celtics, he will likely agree to the extension. All indications are that he has thoroughly enjoyed his time in Boston so far. Plus, they'll be able to offer him more money than any other team.
The Celtics weren't able to win a ring this season, and that will likely lead general manager Danny Ainge to tinker with the roster a bit. But with their whole core coming back for next season, at least, the Celtics should feel good about their position in the Eastern Conference moving forward.