While Hayward won’t be able to match the $34.2MM salary he would have earned if he has simply opted in, his decision signals that he’s confident he’ll be able to secure a multiyear deal that features a far larger overall guarantee. Al Horford took this path with the Celtics a year ago, turning down a $30MM option to sign a four-year contract that guaranteed him $97MM.
While Horford left Boston, there’s no guarantee that Hayward will do so. The Celtics hold his Bird rights and still have the ability to sign him to a new long-term contract. However, it sounds like they’ll face plenty of competition for his services. The Hawks and Knicks – the two clubs with the most cap room in the NBA – have both been linked to the veteran forward.
A sign-and-trade is also a possibility, so teams over the cap could be in play for Hayward as well. As Marc Stein of The New York Times tweets, the Pacers – who have been frequently linked to the Indiana native – have explored potentially trading for him.
Hayward, 30, still didn’t quite look like his old All-Star self in 2019/20, but he was a lot closer than in his first two seasons in Boston. In 52 games this year, he averaged 17.5 PPG, 6.7 RPG, and 4.1 APG on .500/.383/.855 shooting. His size and play-making ability will make him a popular target in free agency.