The Boston Celtics have "real interest" in pursuing Utah Jazz swingman Gordon Hayward in free agency next summer, according to ESPN's Zach Lowe. Hey, did you know that Celtics coach Brad Stevens used to coach Hayward at Butler? Yes, you definitely did, which is why this has been rumored for years. Also, everybody's going to want Hayward because he's an excellent wing player and it's extremely difficult to acquire those.
Utah waited for Charlotte to max him out last time around, and Hayward has a long memory. The Jazz have a ton of guys to pay, and if they down enough beers (just kidding, it's Utah!), they might convince themselves they have the wing depth to withstand Hayward bolting. His beloved college coach runs a rising team with an easy roadmap to max cap space -- and real interest in Hayward, per several league sources.
But if Utah makes a leap, the smart money is on Hayward sticking. The Jazz can offer a winning young core, an extra fifth season, and if the new CBA breaks right for them, a little more cash than home teams can dangle under the current deal.
So, Boston has interest, but Hayward is likely to stay. That makes sense, especially if the Jazz stay healthy and win 50-plus games like their talent suggests they should. Hayward is expected to miss the beginning of the season because of a dislocated finger, by the way.
The key thing for Utah will be locking Hayward up as soon as possible. It should already be prepared to offer him the full max at 12:01 a.m. ET on July 1 and persuade him not to even sit down with Stevens, Danny Ainge, Al Horford, Isaiah Thomas, Tom Brady and whoever else the Celtics bring to their pitch meeting. If Hayward starts talking to them, he could potentially be convinced that Boston is the best place for him to try to win a championship, especially because it's in the Eastern Conference.
Hayward would be a perfect fit with the Celtics, who could still use a little bit more scoring and spacing. With him on board, they would be sort of a supercharged version of the Atlanta Hawks team that won 60 games two years ago: no megastars, but a bunch of extremely talented players who complement each other and play both ends of the floor.
Of course, you could easily argue that Hayward already plays for a team like that.