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Gordon Hayward's player option decision next season - money, security or best shot at a Title?

Barring a trade prior to the February, 2020 deadline, what will Gordon Hayward choose to do with his player option for next season? Will he opt in for the $34.2 million? Or will he opt out and look for the best deal he can get, either with the Celtics or another team?


Despite much personal success, an NBA Title has eluded Hayward. Boston's Core-5 of Hayward, Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown, Kemba Walker and Marcus Smart are slated to earn roughly $115.9 million next season, and the Celtics are projected to be over the luxury tax threshold. That's not the major issue. Tatum will be in a contract season in 2020-21, and he is due for a major raise once his 4-year, rookie deal is done. Fitting the salaries of Gordon and Jayson into Boston's financial landscape for 2021-22 will require masterful maneuvering by Danny Ainge.


I feel Hayward's decision will come down to how the team performs this season. So far - so good. The Celtics remain in third place in the standings with a 21-7 record, behind only the Bucks and Lakers. They have a 4-game winning streak despite nagging injuries to Hayward and Smart. I have started to compare Boston's Core-5 with the Warrior's "Death Lineup" quintet. The Celtics have to be considered serious contenders for bringing home Banner 18. And their future is as bright as any team in the NBA. Gordon may be reluctant to leave such a promising tomorrow.

But he will be 30 years old by season's end, and this may be his last opportunity to optimize his next contract. Will he opt for max money for the shorter term or less dollars for an extended contract? Gordon's relationship with coach Brad Stevens goes all the way back to their days at Butler, and that may come into play. Hayward plays a style that fits with virtually any team, but that compatibility does not apply to just any coach. And realizing that the Jay Team has not peaked yet, and Smart may not have either - we may be looking at a Super Team next season. That is incentive for Gordon to stay put.

We have not yet seen the real Gordon Hayward for any lengthy stretch. Injuries and recovery have limited his participation, performance and mentality. But one thing is for sure. He fits the post-season like a glove. I envision a healthy Hayward as the difference between a disappointing playoff run and ultimate success.

What I haven't discussed is Danny Ainge's take on all of this. Danny has survived two heart attacks since joining the front office. He won't remain as Head Honcho of the Celtics forever. He has one Title and wants more - and that includes this season. He will consider Hayward's health, performance and wishes to remain in Boston (or not), and make decisions from there. The better chance is that we will see Gordon in green next season. Beyond that is anybody's guess.

Follow Tom at @CelticsSentinel, CausewayStreet and Facebook



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