Celtics Notebook: Gordon Hayward's future, James Harden chances, NBA Draft preview

Chris Forsberg
·5 min read

Forsberg's Notebook: Hayward, Harden, and feeling a draft originally appeared on NBC Sports Boston

Emptying out the notebook and some thoughts on the state of the Boston Celtics before the 2020 NBA Draft gets underway:

* The Celtics have a lot of irons in the fire and we’re not sure if the team even knows how draft night will play out. So much hinges on how the board unfolds and the willingness of other teams to make moves.

You’ll hear all sorts of rumors — The Celtics want to move up! They want to move back! They want to move out! — all of them are true and all with different motivations. Celtics fans inevitably lament the lack of fireworks, but Boston has been aggressively assessing what’s possible.

All this while the uncertainty of Gordon Hayward’s future lingers over the team.

Celtics Talk Podcast: Delaying the inevitable: Is Boston about to trade Gordon Hayward? | Listen & subscribe | Watch on YouTube

* Regarding Hayward, it seems unlikely the team will have a resolution of his situation on Wednesday night, which isn’t ideal as the team prepares to utilize three first-round picks.

Both sides agreed to shuffle their deadline Tuesday because 1) The player wants more time to assess possible options and that will be easier once the draft dust settles and 2) The team needs time to assess what options are available if Hayward ultimately elects to play elsewhere next season.

* Is there any chance Gordon Hayward is back in Boston for the 2020-21 campaign? It’s probably the least likely scenario at this point but it’s not completely off the table, according to league sources.

Forsberg: What could happen with C's, Hayward going to overtime

It appears the Celtics are waiting for direction from Hayward’s camp about his preferred path. If cap space dries up, if teams aren’t willing to give Hayward big money in any sign-and-trade deal, or if the market for Hayward has been overstated, then sticking it out in Boston might eventually become the most attractive option.

Again, it feels like a very, very unlikely option given how the saga has unfolded -- but it’s there.

* A Yahoo! report Tuesday suggested the Hawks were in play as a potential Hayward landing spot. Color us skeptical about Hayward’s interest in that scenario. But Hayward most certainly has a vested interest in the Hawks appearing to be a possibility.

If Hayward’s end goal is to get the Celtics to increase any long-term offer or encourage a potential sign-and-trade destination like, say, the Pacers to increase what they’re willing to spend on him or trade for him, then making it seem like he’s content to sign into cap space in Atlanta could put a squeeze on those teams.

* Let’s entertain for a second the possibility that Hayward is willing to go to Atlanta. The Hawks do have the cap room to pay him big money and a roster that’s intriguing enough to be in the playoff mix in the Eastern Conference — albeit not nearly the title contender that Boston could be with Hayward’s presence. Hayward would share the offensive spotlight with Trae Young and be more than the fourth option that he is currently in Boston.

Barring a burst of high-priced moves, the Hawks can simply sign Hayward into available cap space. The Celtics would prefer to do a sign-and-trade with hopes of recouping future assets, which might just be a humongous trade exception. That said, Boston might have to sweeten the pot just for Atlanta to consider that avenue.

Forsberg's Mock Draft: Final first-round projections for all 30 picks

* How could a trade exception help Boston? The Celtics would have a full calendar year to absorb contracts via trade worth up to the value of Hayward’s first-year salary. If he got dealt somewhere on an extend-and-trade, that could be a $34.2 million exception.

Boston could split that value between multiple incoming players without having to match outgoing salary. For a team with no bulky bad contracts to package in deals, that could be an asset. Though it’s worth noting that many trade exceptions simply vaporize because teams can’t find deals that work.

* The best example of Boston utilizing a trade exception came after the Celtics-Nets blockbuster in 2013. Boston generated a $10.3 million exemption, which it eventually used in July 2014 to help acquire Marcus Thornton, Tyler Zeller, and a 2016 first-round pick.

In February 2015, that first-round pick got moved as part of the deal that brought back Isaiah Thomas. The moral here is that having such a lofty exemption might help the Celtics facilitate deals in which they don’t want to give up, say, a Marcus Smart.

* With that said, trade exemptions are extra valuable if you have draft assets to also send a receiving team because they cannot be combined with other salary. It’s why the Celtics might need to consider pushing at least one of this year’s first-round picks into a future season. Pairing a future first and a trade exemption can deliver an impact talent from a team looking to accumulate assets and cap space.

* If Hayward is departing and the Celtics are losing a key piece of their core, would the team consider a pursuit of James Harden? Don’t count on it.

Forsberg: Should C's go all-in on a Harden trade?

Like any team with championship aspirations, the Celtics had to at least consider the possibility of trading for the former MVP. Alas, league sources indicate that team brass prefer to ride it out with their young core rather than run the chemistry experiment of bringing Harden on board.

And, no, we checked every Chipotle in the area last night and couldn’t find Danny Ainge getting dinner with Harden.