The Boston Celtics have a roster full of players with ties to the state of Indiana, but only one of them — Gordon Hayward — has been an All-Star in this league.
And with him potentially becoming a free agent this offseason (whenever that might be is anyone’s guess), could he be someone the Pacers might have interest in?
“There’s no doubt (he) would be,” J. Michael who covers the Pacers for the Indianapolis Star, told NBC Sports Boston’s Celtics Talk Podcast.
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And while J. Michael acknowledges that the Pacers are looking to add a superstar which is not how he sees Hayward, that wouldn’t prevent the Pacers from at least taking a long and hard look at the Indiana native.
“I don’t consider him a superstar; I consider him a good player,” Michael said. “I think superstars are on another level that goes beyond money.”
And money certainly has to be a factor when looking at Hayward’s future with the Boston Celtics.
Last summer the Celtics signed Kemba Walker to a four-year, $141 million contract. And last fall, Jaylen Brown received a four-year, $115 million extension. Then there’s the likely extension for Jayson Tatum this summer which will provide a significant bump in his salary that would put him in the nine-figure club.
That leaves lots of uncertainty as to the economics of keeping Hayward, who will make $32.7 million this season and can hit the free agent market by opting out of the final year of his deal, which is worth slightly more than $34.1 million.
While it’s unlikely Hayward will secure another max contract, he has shown enough skills to warrant another big contract during his career.
“He can play multiple positions,” Michael said. “They have a bunch of guys that can do multiple positions.”
And the addition of Hayward would allow for roster versatility as well.
“You can play an even more small-ball lineup,” Michael said. “Say for instance, you moved on (Myles) Turner or (Domantas) Sabonis. Now you have space where you can go with real small-ball lineups and slot guys like him at the (power forward) and come up with some real diverse lineups that could give teams troubles and still have that big man/rim protector underneath to help keep the defensive integrity."
Michael added, “The kind of player Hayward is, is the kind of player they would definitely be interested in.”
And while Hayward’s Indiana roots would certainly come up as a justification in the minds of many as to why Indiana would add him to their roster, Michael believes Hayward’s favorite-son status in Indiana would be overblown and take away from the real reason the Pacers would want him.
“The Pacers don’t get up enough 3’s,” said Michael. “They’ve acknowledged that often.”
Prior to the league suspending play on March 12, the Pacers averaged a league-low 27.5 3-point attempts per game.
But it’s not like they have a bunch of guys that can’t shoot, either.
Indiana’s roster shot 36.3 percent from 3-point range this season which ranks 12th in the NBA, tied with the Celtics.
“They need a true 3-point shooting forward or a guy who can slide in,” Michael said. ‘Because of that, a guy like Hayward would work despite his connections to Indiana. With him, that would be a cherry-on-top situation. They need more shooters; long ball shooters.”