The Boston Celtics are focused on the 2019 playoffs. But the NBA's lottery teams already are looking ahead to this summer, and it appears the Cleveland Cavaliers are keeping tabs on one of Boston's prized assets.
Cavs general manager Koby Altman confirmed last Friday his team already has fielded calls for veteran guard J.R. Smith, whose unique contract -- only $3.8 million guaranteed of the $15.7 million he's technically owed next season -- could provide another club with valuable cap flexibility.
In an article published Wednesday, Cleveland.com's Chris Fedor listed the Celtics as one of the Cavs' 10 potential trade partners in a Smith deal, citing Cleveland's interest in former All-Star Gordon Hayward.
The Cavs would gladly take the polarizing Hayward, who was an All-Star in Utah before his horrific leg injury. He would be the main prize, the exception to Cleveland demanding a draft pick or ascending player on a rookie deal. Hayward is healthy now and will have a full off-season to try to regain his old form, possibly giving the Cavs another piece to accelerate their timeline. Put Hayward, 29, alongside Kevin Love, Collin Sexton and the duo added in Round One and suddenly Cleveland has the look of a playoff team.
Fedor notes the only way Boston would consider dealing Hayward is if things went awry this summer. If Kyrie Irving bolts in free agency and the C's lose out on Anthony Davis, Danny Ainge could look to unload the maximum contracts of Hayward and Al Horford to do a mini-rebuild around Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown.
If Irving stays, though, don't expect Hayward to go anywhere. Ainge acquired the 29-year-old to be a key contributor on a title-contending Boston team, and Hayward has shown encouraging signs he can still be that player after his October 2018 leg injury (suffered in Cleveland, ironically).
The Celtics have bigger fish to fry as they aim to dispatch the Indiana Pacers in the first round. But here's another reminder that if Boston bows out early, things could get very, very interesting this offseason.
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