As discussed, in Part I of the "Potential Avenues for the Celtics after the Gordon Hayward opted out," Danny Ainge has many variables to juggle going forward with three distinct options for their veteran free agent.
In this piece we investigate some possibilities if the 'doomsday scenario' of Hayward leaving for nothing does occur.
Let's say it happens, the worst outcome comes to fruition and Gordon Hayward's three year stay as a Celtic ends with nothing but a cloud of smoke. What then? The answer is as simple as it is obvious, Ainge immediately becomes the topic of conversation. He and his front office team would be tasked with filling one of the most efficient stat lines in the NBA from last season. While Boston proved they can live without Hayward (see the Toronto Raptors second round series just a couple months ago), Ainge would want to do his best to mitigate the loss in any way possible.
How can Ainge go about doing this? The possible answers lie below.
Part II: Doomsday Scenario -
1. Player Development
Boston will start the 2020-21 season with two of the NBA's brightest young stars in Jayson Tatum and Jaylon Brown. To put it simple, the future is in good hands. With Hayward gone, the load would shift fully to the two young superstars and they would be tasked with picking up the slack. The Celtics would also push more of the offensive load to Kemba Walker. Walker was signed as a veteran scorer who would facilitate and compliment this young duo and his role would be as important as ever. Assuming he is healthy, he would be asked to regain his all-star form and be a clear top three option for the Celtics night in and out.
Brad Stevens and the Celtics would also look for an evolution of Marcus Smart's game as he would be the odds-on favorite to take up the starting role left by Hayward. Smart would likely see the largest role increase (offensively) and his energy and defense would also be a huge need for going forward.
Others that would be tasked with maturing quickly would include Robert Williams III, Grant Williams, as well as rookie Aaron Nesmith. Boston would need this trio among several others to take steps to play major roles for the 2020-21 team. Grant Williams would be the most likely to gain a consistent role with his combination of experience and skills but Nesmith would be the most logical minute getter for his positional similarities to Hayward.
2. Free Agency -
While cap space will still be non-existent, Boston will still have a few exceptions that will give them a shot at adding some talent to fill the hole Hayward would be leaving behind. Namely, the full Mid-Level Exception of approximately $9.2 million as well as the Bi-Annual Exception of around $3.6 million. These two exceptions should allow Ainge some level of flexibility to beef up his young bench with some proven veteran options.
Who would he be looking to add, here are some options:
- Alec Burks - Talented scorer who struggled in Philadelphia after a deadline move last season. Would be a top-line scorer for the Celtics off the bench as well as a contender to get starts if Marcus Smart or Kemba Walker were out of the line-up.
- Aron Baynes - A familiar face and added size to the Boston front line. Baynes is coming off a career year in Phoenix at age 33 but would be a physical interior body to help add depth and challenge for a starting role.
- Avery Bradley - Another familiar face who would possibly welcome a return to his drafted home in Boston. In a strange twist of irony, Bradley returning as a key bench player for the Celtics as a part of replacing minutes left in the departure of Gordon Hayward would bring things full circle…seeing that he was traded to help sign Hayward.
- Wiley Cauley-Stein - Long, lean big who can protect the rim and press Robert Williams for "rim runner" time. Also may see Boston as a good landing spot due to potential starting spot.
- Pat Connaughton - Local boy coming home. Athletic swing-man who can shoot the three and defend. Would be cost effective and may see the potential for a major bench role as an appealing option.
3. Trade -
If Ainge can add some depth via free agency, don't count out the possibility of Boston sticking its toe in the trade pool as well. A by-product of the Enes Kanter opt-in is a very nice $5 million contract that is tradable and appealing to teams looking to move unwanted players.
Below is a couple options Trader Danny may consider:
- Christian Wood - While the MLE may not be enough to get Wood to Boston, a sign and trade could be a long-shot option. Boston would pool together Enes Kanter, Romeo Langford, Semi Ojeleye, Robert Williams, and Javonte Green (Approximately $13.9 million) and bring back Wood for the outgoing equivalent. Assuming $13 million a year would be good enough to convince Christian Wood to sign, Detroit would also get a 1st Round Pick in the swap with a former 14th overall pick in Langford. Longshot, but possible.
Wood had a breakout season in Detroit and would push to start at the center spot for Boston. He would also be an interesting player in a sense that the Celtics will need to find auxiliary scoring in Haywards departure. Wood could easily see himself ascend to being the Celtics fourth scoring option (keep in mind, that role was good for 17+ points a night last year).
- PJ Tucker - A more likely scenario would be a deal to Houston getting the veteran forward. Kanter would add a big body to allow the Rockets to run a more traditional lineup with a bigman as well as their choice of Ojeleye, Carson Edwards, or Javonte Green to match salary. If that isn’t enough, Ainge could consider adding Langford or even Robert Williams to get things done. Boston may also likely need to add some type of draft capital to sweeten the deal but it would allow Houston a return of some assets and players who they can dump at the end of the year if they don’t like them. Flexibility would be the appeal for the Rockets.
The move would add a veteran forward to Boston' s bench mix. Tucker is now 35 years old and would be more of a short term rental but it would add a forward who can defend at a high level and knock it down from outside as a corner three ball option.
Photo used is courtesy of the Clutch Points