Frustrated veteran could be helpful addition for Heat this summer

Dec 6, 2021; Miami, Florida, USA; Miami Heat president Pat Riley sits in the arena prior to the game
Dec 6, 2021; Miami, Florida, USA; Miami Heat president Pat Riley sits in the arena prior to the game / Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

The Oklahoma City Thunder trading for Gordon Hayward in February was a bit curious when it happened. Hayward, 34, doesn’t exactly fit Oklahoma City’s young roster, and it was unclear how much he would be able to provide a team largely settled with its perimeter rotation.

It turned out that the fit wasn’t a great one, and Hayward grew frustrated with his role by the end of the season. Hayward told reporters during his exit interview on Sunday that his time in OKC was “not what I thought it would be.”

Hayward will be a free agent this summer and could look for an opportunity to play elsewhere, and the Miami Heat could make sense as a destination.

“Obviously disappointing with how it all worked out,” Hayward told reporters during the team's exit interviews. “This is not what I thought it would be. Certainly frustrating.”

Hayward averaged 17.2 minutes and 5.3 points in 26 games for the Thunder during the regular season. Then in the playoffs, Hayward was an afterthought in the rotation. He logged just 46 minutes across seven games and didn’t score a single point.

“I feel like as a player I have a lot to offer,” Hayward said. “I just wasn't given much of an opportunity to do that, and I thought I was going to get that opportunity.”

It’s unclear how much Hayward can offer at this stage of his career. He hasn’t played more than 52 games in a season since 2019 because of injuries and isn’t the one-on-one scorer he was during his prime in Utah nearly a decade ago.

Although his days of being a full-time starter are behind him, Hayward would be a better fit on a veteran roster where he could play a regular role. At 6-foot-7, 225 pounds, Hayward is capable of playing both forward positions.

If the Heat were to lose both Caleb Martin and Haywood Highsmith to free agency this summer, adding Hayward on the veteran minimum could provide helpful depth at the forward position while the Heat draft, sign or develop younger replacements.

Adding Hayward isn’t the type of needle-moving acquisition the Heat need this summer, but it could be a helpful one to round out the rotation depending on how the offseason plays out. He’s a player worth monitoring, even if his name isn’t at the top of the wish list.