On Friday, ESPN’s Zach Lowe reported that the Boston Celtics will be trading their first overall pick in this year’s NBA draft to the Philadelphia 76ers in exchange for the third pick and two future first-round picks.
Immediately after the trade was agreed upon, fans began to wonder how the trade would impact Gordon Hayward’s decision in free agency, since he’s been long connected to the Celtics. The answer’s pretty simple. It won’t.
Hayward’s role won’t change
Right now, Kansas forward Josh Jackson is slated to go third.
Celtics general manager Danny Ainge, like every executive in the NBA, is enamored by Jackson’s athleticism. Some could argue that Jackson, and not Washington point guard Markelle Fultz, should be going first, making the trade seem like highway robbery for Boston.
None of that should matter to Hayward, though.
Hayward won’t play a lesser role in Boston, even if Jackson (or Duke’s Jayson Tatum, whose stock is rising) is Boston’s pick. At 27, Hayward is entering the prime of his career and has proven to be one of the league’s best players, not just at his position. A 19-year-old cannot possibly steal minutes away from someone like Hayward.
Don’t forget, the Celtics can also use the third pick to their advantage without even selecting a player.
Before LeBron James decided to return to Cleveland, the Cavaliers traded Andrew Wiggins, who they took first overall in 2014, to the Minnesota Timberwolves for Kevin Love. Wiggins, in theory, would’ve been James' heir apparent in Cleveland, but the Cavaliers didn’t want to wait for him to develop.
Boston can make a similar move by trading the picks it received in this trade for another already-established player. The Celtics have been connected to Chicago Bulls star Jimmy Butler for a while, and Paul George has made his intention of leaving the Indiana Pacers clear. If either player really becomes available, the Celtics could put together an enticing package around the assets they received in the 76ers trade.
Money won’t be a problem
Boston is expected to have around $30 million in cap space this offseason, giving it a chance to pursue any big-name free agent. The trade won’t change that. Actually, if anything, the trade will make it easier for the Celtics to sign a top free agent.
The first overall pick is projected to make $4.92 million in his first season. The third pick is expected to make $3.95 million. The savings aren’t incredible, but if the Celtics do end up keeping their pick, they will have about an extra $1 million to spend on talent this summer. In total, assuming both the first and third picks finish their rookie contracts, the Celtics will be saving $3 million.
Financially, the Utah Jazz will still have an advantage over every team in the NBA, but the Celtics can still offer the same amount of money to Hayward as they would’ve before the trade went down.