NBA Free Agency: Gordon Hayward Headed to the Boston Celtics
April 18, 2017; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Utah Jazz forward Gordon Hayward (20) during a stoppage in play against the Los Angeles Clippers in the second half in game two of the first round of the 2017 NBA Playoffs at Staples Center. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

Danny Ainge and the Boston Celtics just sent a shot heard ’round the Association by agreeing to terms with stud Gordon Hayward in NBA Free Agency. 

The “wake me up when the Finals start” crowd grew restless in the postseason, but hasn’t had to wait long for the thrill of the offseason frenzy. The latest fireworks came on the Fourth of July (for the second-straight year) when forward Gordon Hayward announced via the Players’ Tribune his decision to sign with the Boston Celtics.

It would be impossible for even the most trusted basketball savant to articulate the amount of emotional warfare Hayward experienced during this process. Only he knows about all the personal sacrifices that had to be made in order to accommodate the needs of his family.

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But from a pure basketball perspective, this decision was incredibly simple for a plethora of reasons — mainly, the Celtics are in a more favorable position.

Though Rudy Gobert‘s value and numbers can’t be argued, the reality is that Utah’s ceiling in the West is the second-round, where this year they were swept by the would-be champion Warriors. And this isn’t any fault of Gobert or even Hayward, it’s just indicative of the strength of the conference.

The metrics suggest Hayward was foolish to leave a player of the caliber of Gobert, who epitomizes everything you want in a center in this era of basketball. He finished second in the voting for Defensive Player of the Year award, a testament to how impactful he was on that end, causing havoc for opposing teams and serving as the anchor of No. 3 defense in the league.

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But in the end, Gobert’s individual numbers and the Jazz’s potential failed to outweigh all that Boston had to offer. GM Danny Ainge didn’t really need to bring a four-leaf clover to the meeting, the persuasion was all in the pudding.

East Finals every year, while playing for the best coach in the conference, who Hayward knows quite well from his days at Butler and roster flexibility? Sign him up.

After winning the No. 1 seed and coming to within three wins of an NBA Finals berth, the Celtics ended up with the No. 1 pick. Ultimately this became the No. 3 pick and Jason Tatum, but this same scenario is in place for next year. Rarely does a team have the luxury of combining playoff success with a high-draft pick.

As good of a player as Gobert is, it’s comical that people are pretending he’s the heir apparent to Kareem or Shaq. Hayward will be able to manage without him. Life isn’t over.

This isn’t about “defensive box plus minus” or “win shares.” It’s about Hayward’s goal of putting himself in position to be relevant in late May. That wasn’t happening with Utah and now it’ll happen every year for the foreseeable future with Boston.

Jazz fans have every reason to be devastated. Their future was promising. But in the end, it’s the last pick of the 2011 draft, who gets to celebrate Independence Day in style.

 NEXT: 5 FAs Knicks Should Take a Flyer On 


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Ty Butler

Content provider, producer and on air talent at ESPN Radio in Syracuse (@ESPNSyracuse). Disc Jockey for @TKClassicRock. Play by play announcer. Live and breathe sports – for better or for worse. Aspirations are that of becoming the greatest.