Gordon Heyward is widely looked at as one of the top prizes in this summer’s NBA Free Agency period. After all, he is an All-Star caliber player at the small forward position. However, questions are starting to mount up in regards to how good the Celtics will be with Hayward, and if his acquisition is enough to catch Lebron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers? The answer is very likely no, especially now that Boston traded veteran guard Avery Bradley to the Detroit Pistons. With the Gordon Hayward and Avery Bradley deals now behind them, it’s difficult to see where the Celtics have actually improved themselves.
Is this the off-season Danny Ainge and company envisioned for the Celtics? So far Celtics’ fans are worried and upset with the moves, or lack thereof, made by Ainge. That clearly starts with trading away the very popular Bradley.
A.B. BETTER THAN I.T.?
While, Isaiah Thomas is Boston’s leading scorer, Bradley is arguably the better overall player. Thomas isn’t very good guarding anyone, while Bradley is one of the NBA’s best perimeter defenders. He also guards multiple positions. Labeled a ‘2-way’ player, Bradley averaged 16.3 points per game in 2016-17. That’s good for second on the team only to Thomas. For good measure, it was Bradley’s game winner, without the injured Thomas, that won Game 3 for the Celtics in Cleveland.
His 6.1 rebounds per game aren’t anything to laugh at either. Especially, when you consider rebounding is the Celtics’ biggest weakness. A weakness Ainge has yet to address.
BUT, SOMEONE HAD TO GO
The Celtics had to let go of someone to allow Hayward’s max contract to fit. Marcus Smart, and Jae Crowder were the names most mentioned. But, Bradley’s name also came up. Obviously, Bradley has more value. So, he’s the player that’s gets moved. Pretty simple.
We all know that losing popular players is often a necessary step for a team’s growth. But, this is a Celtics team with a lot of momentum going into the 2017-18 season. Not capitalizing on that momentum could come back to bite, but despite signing Hayward that seems to be what’s happening. Paul George is now in Oklahoma City with Russell Westbrook. Jimmy Butler is now reunited with Tom Thibodeau in Minnesota. Two players that are thought of to be better than Hayward that the Celtics could not bring to Boston.
GORDON HAYWARD AND AVERY BRADLEY DEALS LEAVE CELTICS WITH ‘BIG QUESTIONS
So, instead of a very bright future in Boston, the Gordon Hayward and Avery Bradley deals actually make that future look a bit cloudy. At least, the near future anyway. The future can still be very bright for the Leprechauns with guys like Jaylen Brown, this season’s first round pick Jayson Tatum, and countless draft picks in the future. But, the Celtics still are void of a true ‘big’ on their roster.
Al Horford has the size, but he’s not a rim protector, nor is he a great rebounder. Kelly Olynyk is a repeat of Horford with less talent, but he was dealt to the Miami Heat earlier this week. They also lost Amir Johnson to the 76ers. Size is a huge problem that Hayward can do absolutely nothing about. He’s also not the defender Bradley is. Therefore, asking the question, is Gordon Hayward worth all the Celtics had to give up to get him is quite relevant.
There are some possible options for Danny Ainge to look to get some size on the roster. Javale McGee is one possibility if he’s not re-signed by Golden State. The Grizzlies’ Ja’Mychal Green is apparently available and there should be a few others. But, will any of those guys move the needle enough to chase down Cleveland or Golden State?
HAYWARD JUST ISN’T ENOUGH… YET.
As for Hayward, adding him should do wonders for Isaiah Thomas on offense. Having that second scorer beside him should make his job easier. But, what about the defensive end where he counted on Bradley’s excellent defending? What about Bradley’s intensity and leadership? Hayward has some big shoes to fill.
Ainge, has to hope Hayward does just that. If not, his job could be in jeopardy. Ainge is still one of the NBA’s best GM’s, but you have to question the Celtics’ off-season. If, he’s staying patient for free agency next summer, why Hayward? If he’s trying to win now, why not George or Butler? The Gordon Hayward and Avery Bradley deals leave a lot of questions for the Celtics and the rest of the NBA as they chase the world champion Golden State Warriors.