Blockbuster trade will have major impact on former Utah Jazz star Gordon Hayward

NEW ORLEANS, LA - FEBRUARY 18: Gordon Hayward (Photo by Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images)
NEW ORLEANS, LA - FEBRUARY 18: Gordon Hayward (Photo by Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images) /

Former Utah Jazz All-Star Gordon Hayward’s Boston Celtics completed a blockbuster trade today that dramatically altered the team.

One of the toughest pills for Utah Jazz fans to swallow this summer was without a doubt the loss of Gordon Hayward. He had become such an integral part of the team’s success and with little available options to replace him, his departure left somewhat of a hole in a team that had been on the rise.

Nevertheless, regardless of whether you agree or disagree with Hayward’s decision, the fact of the matter was that there were definitely a number of enticing reasons for him to join the Boston Celtics. Aside from the obvious connection with head coach Brad Stevens, the C’s boasted an exceptional amount of depth, the fortune of playing in a less daunting conference and an electrifying point guard in Isaiah Thomas who finished third in the league in scoring in 2016-17.

However, the team Hayward agreed to join this offseason has now undergone a bit of a surprising overhaul due to the news that broke earlier today.

Much to the utter shock of NBA followers across the world, the Cleveland Cavaliers and Boston Celtics came to an agreement which sent Kyrie Irving to Boston in exchanged for Isaiah Thomas, Jae Crowder, Ante Zizic and the Celtics’ coveted 2018 Brooklyn Nets first round draft pick. In other words, the team that Hayward initially agreed to sign on with has taken on a much different look.

Gone is Isaiah Thomas. Gone is more of their reliable depth in Jae Crowder (who joins guys like Avery Bradley, Kelly Olynyk and Jonas Jerebko as players who are no longer in Boston). And gone is a portion of their immediately bright future in the form of the Nets pick. In return, however, the Celtics did manage to land a bona fide second star (given that some didn’t consider Thomas as such) to play alongside Hayward.

Ironically, while many would likely give Kyrie a clear edge over Thomas (despite the fact that Isaiah was one of the league’s premier scorers last season), when looking at his and Irving’s stats, they’re actually surprisingly similar as you can see in the tweet below from KSL’s Andy Larsen.

It’s no stretch of the imagination to say that Kyrie is a better defender than Thomas, however, he still isn’t that great of a defender himself. Additionally, though Thomas put up more points last season than Irving did, he did so at a less efficient rate. Both averaged just under six assists per game in 2017-18 (5.9 for Thomas and 5.8 for Irving), which is a decent figure especially for two guards who are generally considered shoot-first.

While I would agree that Irving is an overall upgrade over Thomas, I don’t think the gap is as blatant as some might think. In other words, the biggest question facing the Celtics now isn’t so much who’s the better player between Irving and Thomas, it’s how will Irving fit in with new teammate Gordon Hayward?

Throwing two stars together onto a brand new team can definitely take some adjusting and as good as Hayward proved to be last season, there’s no doubting he’ll be second fiddle to Irving now rather than the top option as many presumed he would be even with Thomas still on the roster.

The other big question facing the Celtics will be if the slight upgrade that Irving provides over Thomas will be enough to make up for all the depth they have now given up. Sure, Hayward was a huge upgrade to their overall talent, but the loss of some of the guys I mentioned earlier, most notably Avery Bradley and now Jae Crowder, could be more detrimental than some might think. If any one of their starters suffers an injury, Boston won’t have nearly as much help waiting in reserve to turn to.

It would be interesting to be able to get into Hayward’s mind to determine what he thinks of all this. There were rumors floating around prior to his free agency decision that he was hesitant about playing alongside Isaiah Thomas and ever since Boston fans cheered for Hayward when the Jazz were in town, it seemed to rub Crowder the wrong way and thus it makes some sense to clear out a player at a similar position that could cause some friction.

Perhaps these moves were made partially with Hayward’s happiness in mind, although more than likely it was simply the Celtics’ way of bringing in a proven star in Kyrie Irving and avoiding the drama of having to deal with considering a max contract for Isaiah Thomas at the conclusion of the upcoming season. Given that Thomas was reportedly part of the recruitment process to woo Hayward into their midst, though, it’s somewhat surprising that he would be dealt so hastily.

Thomas had also said that Hayward was the team’s missing link to make it to the Finals, so it’s even more intriguing that the two are no longer on the same team.

There’s certainly a lot of unknowns involved in this, but one thing is certain – Boston is now a significantly different team than it was when Hayward came on board and the chemistry (or lack thereof) between Irving and Hayward is going to be absolutely exhilarating to monitor next season.

When the Celtics brought Hayward into their midst, they did so with dreams of raising an 18th NBA Championship banner into the rafters. The trade to acquire Kyrie Irving was certainly also done to further pursue that hope, but whether it truly will pay off or not remains to be seen.

Next: Adrian Dantley, Jeff Hornacek and the five best trades in Utah Jazz history

All I know is that while I was already excited to see the Utah Jazz face off against former teammate Gordon Hayward and his new Celtics team this upcoming year, I’m even more excited about it now. And I’ll also be circling every Cavs-Celtics match-up on my calendar so I can catch the LeBron-Kyrie revenge matches as well as see Crowder go at Hayward and Thomas seek to outmatch the team that cast him away so unhesitatingly.

The two clear-cut favorites in the Eastern Conference underwent a major transformation and the way it affects the future of former Jazzman Gordon Hayward as well as the rest of the league will be a thrilling aspect of the upcoming season.