Where should Gordon Hayward play next season?

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·4 min read
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Former All-Star Gordon Hayward may be looking for a new NBA chapter, as rumors have swirled that the former Butler Bulldog is unhappy in Charlotte. The Hornets, meanwhile, have a bonafide superstar in LaMelo Ball, and a budding identity centered on speed and athleticism. The oft-injured Hayward is on the wrong side of thirty, and might not fit Charlotte’s future or timeline.

Hayward is in the midst of a hefty four-year, $120 million contract. To complicate the matter, any move would trigger a 15% trade bonus for Hair Gordon. When healthy, he is still one of the better players in the NBA, but certainly moving such a lucrative deal would be quite challenging for the Hornets. Still, like Bradley Beal or even Kyrie Irving, a major change could be in the works.

If the Hornets do make good on any of the many Gordon Hayward trade rumors currently floating around, it could send shockwaves around the NBA. This may be an opportunity for Charlotte to re-tool its roster and for Hayward to play a bigger role elsewhere. So, where should Gordon Hayward play next season?

Charlotte Hornets

There’s two main reasons that Hayward should expect to suit up in Hornets teal next season. First, the logistics of a possible trade are pretty complicated. But second, Charlotte may be the best basketball fit for the two-way wing.

Hayward is owed $30.1 million in salary for the 2022-23 season. He’ll be the 40th highest paid player in the league, which on the surface isn’t terrible. That said, Hayward has struggled to stay healthy in recent seasons even several years removed from his massive injury in 2017. Finding the right trade partner may prove quite difficult for the Hornets.

Hayward is still a reliable passer and shooter. Not only can he play a key role in a Charlotte offense predicated on passing and quick decisions, but he can also serve as a veteran for up-and-coming players like Ball or Miles Bridges. If Hayward can accept a truncated role, he fits rather nicely with a Hornets club desperate to make a splash in the Eastern Conference.

Indiana Pacers

There are whispers that Hayward isn’t excited about the above and instead would welcome a change. A notorious family man, Hayward would almost assuredly prioritize comfort alongside winning if he did indeed request a trade. Indiana makes almost too much sense for that reason.

Though the Pacers made noise at this season’s NBA trade deadline by grabbing Tyrese Haliburton, Indy has more work to do. The Pacers almost landed Hayward in the 2020 offseason, and have long coveted the Indianapolis native. As a star of the Butler Bulldogs’ Cinderella teams from the late 00s, Hayward is basketball royalty in the Hoosier State.

Malcolm Brogdon, Myles Turner, and Buddy Hield could all be on the move as the Pacers shuffle the deck. Indiana has the players and the salaries to craft a reasonable Gordon Hayward package. Both teams will look to make a change this summer, and the fit here is almost too perfect.

New York Knicks

Hayward isn’t the only former All-Star who may be on the move. Rumors about New York’s Julius Randle have also been swirling since NYK’s disappointing season came to a close. A straight up swap could be beneficial for both parties here.

Randle would give Charlotte the right type of big down low. Randle and Ball could form a very impactful pick-and-roll duo, while Randle’s ability to create his own offense would also take pressure off of the Hornets’ younger players.

In New York, Hayward would have a chance to return to the NBA spotlight. What happens next for the Knicks is anyone’s guess, but something’s gotta give. Adding Hayward alongside young players like Immanuel Quickley and Obi Toppin would allow New York to showcase its young stars while still competing for a playoff spot.

Los Angeles Lakers

It’s unclear what happens next for Russell Westbrook, but already his name has been linked to the Hornets. If trading Hayward comes down to swapping one big contract for another, Los Angeles could be a worthy trade partner.

A (healthy) trio of LeBron James, Anthony Davis, and Gordon Hayward would immediately thrust LAL back into the mix in the Western Conference. At this point getting back any value for Westbrook would be a veritable coup for the Lakers. This would be a massive swing for Los Angeles.

For the Hornets, Westbrook’s deal is shorter, and he has more to offer in terms of guidance for LaMelo Ball as a former All-Star point guard in his own right.

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