Could Gordon Hayward soon return to his home state of Indiana?
The Indiana Pacers reportedly remain interested in acquiring the Boston Celtics forward via a sign-and-trade, according to Marc Stein of the New York Times.
Hayward reportedly declined his $34.2 million player option for the 2020-21 NBA season on Thursday, which allows him to become an unrestricted free agent. Free agency begins Friday at 6 p.m. ET when teams and players/agents can start discussing contract details, and then Sunday at 12:01 p.m. ET is when deals can officially be signed.
The veteran forward could still return to Boston on a new contract. He also could join a new team via a sign-and-trade. Indiana doesn't have a ton of salary cap space, so acquiring Hayward through the sign-and-trade route is the team's best option.
One good scenario for the Celtics would be a sign-and-trade involving Hayward that gets Boston another veteran in return. One intriguing player on the Pacers roster who would address a roster weakness in Boston is Myles Turner. The veteran power forward would give the Celtics much-needed frontcourt depth, rebounding and a player who can stretch the floor with quality outside shooting.
It's also worth noting that Hayward was born in Indiana and played college basketball at Butler, which is located in Indianapolis.
The worst case scenario for the Celtics is Hayward leaving in free agency outright and Boston getting nothing in return.
There aren't many teams with the salary cap space to sign Hayward. Two of them are the Atlanta Hawks and New York Knicks. The Hawks could use a scoring playmaker like Hayward, but Atlanta also has been linked to veteran free agents such as point guard Rajon Rondo and forward Danilo Gallinari. The Knicks shouldn't be giving out huge money to a player with an injury history when they aren't close to being a playoff team.
Hayward averaged 17.5 points, 6.7 rebounds and 4.1 assists in 52 games for the Celtics last season.