Another offseason, another flurry of Gordon Hayward trade rumors. It seems as though fans are more eager than ever to ship Hayward out as he weighs whether to opt in for the final year of his contract. It’s important to remember that though Hayward has battled injury after injury, he still carries a lot of value. There aren’t many players in the NBA who can average 17 points per game on 50% shooting while also being a high-volume three-point shooter. In fact, there are only four who did it last season: Anthony Davis, Nikola Jokic, TJ Warren and Gordon Hayward.
All of this is to say, Hayward is a really good player, and the Celtics shouldn’t be so desperate to ship him out this season. However, there is one potential trade that the Celtics should be trying to pull off and that is prying Nikola Vucevic away from the Magic.
First, let’s look at why the deal makes sense for the Magic. Orlando could use some playmaking on the wing. The team doesn’t exactly have the best situation on the perimeter with DJ Augustin hitting free agency and Evan Fournierweighing his player option. It doesn’t help that Jonathan Isaac is also likely to miss most of next season with torn ACL. Hayward can jump in and fill the role as the go-to scorer Orlando needs all while being surrounded by a playoff caliber supporting cast.
It’s also high time for Orlando to choose between Vucevic and Mo Bamba. They’ve sparingly used Bamba since drafting him 6th overall in 2018 and it just doesn’t make sense to keep both him and Vucevic together on the roster. If Orlando is planning to move into the future with a young core of Isaac, Aaron Gordon and Markelle Fultz, then Bamba fits better with that timeline.
Vucevic, an All-Star in 2019, is the perfect center for the Celtics roster. He’s a good shooter, a great rebounder and a solid passer. He’s everything Brad Stevens wants in a big. Hayward has been linked to Indiana in a trade that would bring Myles Turner to Boston, but Vucevic is a far better player.
Nikola Vucevic 2019-20 stats: 19.6 PPG, 10.9 RPG, 3.6 APG, 0.9 BPG, 47.7 FG%, 33.9 3P%
Myles Turner 2019-20 stats: 12.1 PPG, 6.6 RPG, 1.2 APG, 2.1 BPG, 45.7 FG%, 34.4 3P%
If Boston can get Vucevic for what amounts to one more season of Gordon Hayward and picks, it’d be another masterful move form Danny Ainge.
Think of this as the Monta Ellis trade that Golden State made in 2012. Ellis was a fan favorite and the deal seemed silly for Golden State at the time, but they traded Ellis because of his positional overlap on the roster with two young stars (Curry and Thompson). Sound familiar? In return, they got a skilled, veteran center that ultimately was integral in their championship run a few short years later.
The Celtics aren’t going to find a better option at center than Vucevic. A lineup of Kemba Walker, Marcus Smart,Jaylen Brown, Jayson Tatum and Vucevic has virtually no weak spots. With a lineup like that, the Celtics will be one of the most fearsome starting units in the NBA. If they can add a bench piece or two, they should have enough to seriously compete with the likes of the Lakers and Clippers.
Photo: (Mark L. Baer – USA Today Sports)