We know the Miami Heat had an interest in bringing Gordon Hayward before, but would he make this version of the roster a contender in the East?
The Boston Celtics forward has a player option for $34-million next year that he’s sure to exercise, but as the NBA rumor mill often does; it’s rotating on and considering all potential outcomes.
Given how close Hayward was to signing with the Heat back in 17′, it makes sense to think he might consider them again should he reenter the free-agent market. It also wouldn’t be surprising to think he wants out of Boston, where he’s had nothing short of a roller coaster run.
A former front office executive with the Memphis Grizzlies, John Hollinger, mentioned the Miami Heat as a team to consider when discussing Hayward’s upcoming (albeit potential) free agency as early as two months ago:
“The team to worry about, at least a little, is Miami. Hayward nearly signed there in 2016 before picking the Celtics, and the Heat are absolutely in win-now mode. Miami can’t offer the same money in the short term — I project them to have $27-million in room, and that number shrinks if the current, pre-COVID-19 projected cap number ends up adjusted downward due to the ramifications from the shutdown.”
Even if the 10-year veteran opts to remain with the Celtics for next season, he’ll still be considered a top talent among the elite 2021 free-agent class; where the Heat plan to be very active.
While we know that he’d have seen a large role on the 2017-2018 Miami Heat roster, what would a Hayward addition look like today? And would it make the team title contenders?
The 30-year old forward is experiencing a return to form this season after a slew of injuries nearly derailed his career. Hayward’s averaging 17.3 points, 6.5 rebounds, and 4.1 assists for a Celtics team that currently sits as the Eastern Conference’s third seed at 43-21.
His ability to score and 3-point shot would make him an easy fit into this Heat offense. Hayward’s knocking down 39 percent of his 4.2 attempts from deep nightly.
Miami’s already a top-10 team in nearly every 3-point static, and with Jimmy Butler in a shooting slump; they will continue to prioritize shooting in free agency. Hayward adds another guy capable of putting up 20 points on any given night, with the passing IQ to match in production.
Why else would Pat Riley and the Heat take an interest? Start with his most recent matchup against Miami back in January, where he dropped 29 points and grabbed nine rebounds. It was a win for Boston, and a reminder to South Beach just what Hayward’s capable of.
It was one of his best games of the season, after being sidelined for 16 games earlier in the year due to a hand injury after an impressive and firey start.
In Boston’s first eight games to start off the 2019-2020 campaign, of which they lost just once, Hayward was averaging: 18.9 points, 7.1 rebounds, and 4.1 assists per game.
If Riley and the Heat front office have faith in his overall health, then a free agency trip down memory lane makes a lot of sense. But the question still stands as to if whether or not they’d be a legitimate contender for the title come 2021 and beyond.
It’s a matter of which Hayward they’ll be getting. He hit somewhat of a stride before the NBA shut down due to the coronavirus outbreak, but will be 31 years old come the 2021 offseason.
The teams he’s played for prior have never been largely successful, aside from a run with the 2016-2017 Utah Jazz. But he’s obviously got something that attracted Riley and coach Erik Spoelstra’s eyes years ago, notably after the aforementioned postseason.
Hayward needs to be the guy Miami wanted years ago, and maybe even more. His scoring will help, his shooting will help, and his vision for the floor will help. As all the pieces come together, it’s not hard to think the Heat would be a top dog around the league in his presence.
A starting five of Kendrick Nunn, Jimmy Butler, Gordon Hayward, Bam Adebayo, and (potentially) Meyers Leonard would have all the floor spacing/scoring/and defense to compete with most. It’s just a matter of the on the floor fit as opposed to what the paper’s saying.
With Hayward in the mix, you’ve got five relatively unselfish (and incredibly talented) guys who’ve all proven they’re fit and their willingness to abide by the Heat’s famous culture.
The Miami Heat and Gordon Hayward have a history, but will they have a future? His fit on this team isn’t crystal clear, but the ceiling on this roster with the forward is hard to deny.