The Boston Celtics winning the NBA Draft Lottery could actually come with a silver lining for the Utah Jazz’s hopes of retaining Gordon Hayward.
Just this week, after the Boston Celtics defeated the Washington Wizards to advance to the Eastern Conference Finals, I wrote about how with each bit of success the Celtics have, Utah Jazz fans likely get a little bit more nervous about Gordon Hayward’s future.
If Hayward opts to leave the Jazz as a free agent this summer, the Celtics are presumably the favorite to lure him away and every accomplishment they reach could very well make joining up with the Celtics look all the more favorable. Depending on how Boston fares against the Cleveland Cavaliers, that performance could weigh heavily on Gordon’s mind as he looks to join a team that puts him in the best situation to win a championship.
However, prior to that series even getting underway, the Boston Celtics were the beneficiaries of an enormous success in last night’s NBA Draft Lottery. Owning the Brooklyn Nets’ first round pick, fortune smiled down upon the Boston Celtics as the ping-pong balls went their way and they earned the first overall pick in the 2017 NBA Draft.
This wasn’t necessarily surprising as the Nets finished with the worst record in the league, meaning that the Celtics, who owned their pick, had the best chance of any team to finish with the number one selection (25 percent odds). Nevertheless, it’s happened plenty of times that the team with the best odds has failed to earn that pick, so it was still without a doubt a major win for the Celtics.
And when it first happened, I couldn’t help but think that this could be yet another major success for the Celtics that could make it appear all the more appealing for Hayward to depart from the Jazz to join an apparently soon-to-be powerhouse Boston team. However, the more I thought about it, the more I thought that this could actually have a bit of a silver lining for the Jazz.
Although it was never necessarily confirmed, there were several rumors around the trade deadline this past season that the Celtics had arrived to the point where both of the Nets picks – the 2017 and 2018 first rounders – were on the table for the right price. Yet, as often is the case at the deadline, no such blockbuster arrangements were made and the C’s held onto their picks.
But now that the 2017 pick is officially the number one overall and bears the prospect of netting a potential future superstar such as Markelle Fultz or the highly controversial Lonzo Ball, it is certainly much more valuable than it was before. And with this being the case, the Celtics could very well find themselves with more suitors than ever.
As such, especially if Boston holds their own against Cleveland in the upcoming series, they might feel it necessary to trade one or both of their highly sought after picks in order to net a current star that would help push them to the next level – a level that hypothetically would allow them to compete with LeBron James and potentially win an NBA Championship.
Two guys who have been long-connected to the Celtics in trade rumors have been the Indiana Pacers’ Paul George and the Chicago Bulls’ Jimmy Butler. It would likely take something equivalent to a number one pick to woo either of those teams into trading their best players, so suddenly the idea that the Celtics could indeed move that pick to capitalize on a “win-now” window becomes a very real possibility.
And therein lies the silver lining for the Jazz – if the Celtics make a blockbuster trade to bring a guy like George or Butler into the mix, it makes little sense for Gordon Hayward to join their ranks, either for him or for the Celtics. Financially, trying to pay for the likes of Isaiah Thomas, Al Horford, George/Butler and Hayward would absolutely cripple the Celtics, causing them to either get rid of a lot of their strong depth or pay deep into the luxury tax.
Not to mention, while I don’t think it’s unrealistic at all to say that Hayward could play well alongside either George or Butler, if the Celtics are going to drop that much cash, it wouldn’t make as much sense to do so on two players that fill a very similar need, especially when they have a glaring hole at the power forward spot.
From Hayward’s perspective, although he’s admitted he wants to be on a team that gives him the best chance of winning (and a team with that group of guys would undoubtedly be very good) it’s also likely that he would find himself having a hard time contributing or being as impactful as he might want to be, or would otherwise be able to be with a team like the Jazz.
I fully recognize that he cares more about team accomplishments than personal accolades, but still, being that much lower in the pecking order on a team may not be the best use of his talent and might be less appealing than one might think. But going back to the financial issue, whether he’d enjoy being in that lineup or not is largely irrelevant as there’s almost no way Boston could afford to make it happen.
Therefore, if the Celtics look to make a trade with their recently established number one overall pick, that could virtually shut the door on the long-surmised Hayward-to-Boston narrative. And that’s something that would without a doubt be a huge relief to Jazz fans.
If the Celtics plan to keep the pick, however, that could certainly change things. I don’t know how truly appealing adding a number one overall pick to the mix would be for Hayward, but more than anything it would allow Boston to still have the cap space to comfortably add him as a free agent. To be honest, while I’d like to optimistically buy in to my own silver lining that I’ve proposed here, I actually wouldn’t be all that surprised if the Celtics forego moving the pick.
Would trading Butler or George be enough to get them past the Cavs? Not to mention, past the Golden State Warriors in a potential NBA Finals match-up? I really don’t know that it would. So while it might seem as if the Celtics could be looking to capitalize on a narrow window to win a championship, there’s also a great chance that they’ll instead plan to build for a long and prosperous future.
And if they go that route, then the Celtics might seek to make free agent Gordon Hayward a part of that future, rather than making a risky win-now trade that would prevent him from joining their ranks.
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Time will tell what happens and, who knows, maybe the Hayward-to-Boston narrative is being overblown regardless of what the Celtics do with the pick. However, if the C’s do end up being able to trade the pick in a win-now type move for Butler or George, that would bode very well for Jazz fans as one very possible landing spot for Hayward would likely be closed down.