Gordon Hayward is heading to the team he first tried to sign with six years ago. Hayward agreed to a four-year, $120 million deal with the Hornets on Saturday, his agent told ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski. Charlotte attempted to sign Hayward when he was a restricted free agent in 2014, and now Michael Jordan finally got his man. Hayward, 30, was an All-Star in 2017. He opted out of his contract with the Celtics after playing in 52 games last season, averaging 17.5 points per game. Let’s grade the deal.
This is a tough one. I have sympathy for markets like Charlotte, which often need to overpay to get anyone of interest to even take a meeting. The Hornets don’t have great options when it comes to making big splashes, so I understand why the front office would want to take a risk on Hayward. But this is a risk and then some.
Hayward broke his leg during his first game in Boston, and was injury-plagued last year as well. At best, he is in the back half of his prime. And in order to sign this deal, Charlotte had to waive and stretch Nic Batum, which adds another $9 million to their cap sheet. It’s hard to see how all of that makes Hayward worth $30 million a year when very few teams had the room or desire to offer him that much money. This deal is a coup for Hayward and his agent, somehow managing to find a huge number in a depressed market.
It’s also not like the Hornets were one piece away! Charlotte wasn’t a threat to make the playoffs last year, and Hayward isn’t a Chris Paul-like transformational piece who lifts all boats. Will the Hornets be better next year? Sure. Does this move make any long-term sense? Not really. Should it have been a red flag when the team had to waive the over-paid Batum to sign someone else to a $30 million salary? Probably! This is the overpay of the offseason so far, but I’ll hold out the slightest bit of hope and give it a passing grade still for two reasons: 1) Maybe Hayward regains his All-Star form (and he did look great pre-injury last year) and 2) Charlotte is a great city with underrated food options.