It's already been a wild offseason for the Charlotte Hornets, but could it get even wilder with blockbuster trade involving Gordon Hayward?
Trade rumors surrounding the 32-year-old wing have flown around seemingly since the Hornets were bounced from the Play-In tournament. This, of course, was all before the Miles Bridges situation popped up. Now that there's a good chance that Bridges never suits up in a Hornets uniform again, GM Mitch Kupchak has to make the decision to either go "all-in" and look to acquire veteran talent to help make up for the loss of Bridges or trade the existing veteran talent on the roster and build around LaMelo Ball.
With two years left on his contract, the Hornets are going to have a hard time finding a trade partner for Hayward. He is due a little over $61.5 million over the next two seasons and for a guy that has had a long history of getting injured, very few teams are going to be chomping at the bit to acquire him.
The return for Hayward won't be as good as Hornets fans think it will be. Could he bring back John Collins or Russell Westbrook? Probably. But unless the Hornets are selling the farm with Hayward included, a Deandre Ayton-caliber playing isn't going to be walking through the Spectrum Center doors.
To be completely honest, I find it very unlikely that the Hornets could ship Hayward off and get a first round pick in return or even a decent young player within his first three or so years of his career. Whomever is willing to make a move for Hayward is going to have to be a team who is competing for a title and I assume Hayward would prefer that as well considering the stage of his career he is in.
Some teams that come to mind are the Lakers, Mavericks, 76ers, and Nuggets. Looking at those teams in particular, nothing truly jumps out to me that would improve the Hornets roster in the long run. That is if we are being realistic, of course.
Unless Kupchak is able to swing a deal for John Collins or Myles Turner, it may not be the worst idea to just hold onto Hayward and pray that he stays on the floor as much as possible. If the Hornets trade Hayward away and don't get much in return, it would force more minutes on younger guys like JT Thor and Jalen McDaniels who may or may not be ready for that responsibility. Assuming Bridges is out of the mix as well, it would be hard for this team to keep its head above water throughout the course of an 82-game season if the starting five consists of Ball, Rozier, Oubre, Washington, and Plumlee/Williams.
Hayward may not be worth the $30+ million he will make but his experience and leadership are valuable and irreplaceable. This young team needs a veteran presence and if you're not going to get a substantial return, don't force a move.
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