Kelly Olynyk was the hero for the Boston Celtics in their Game 7 win to eliminate the Washington Wizards in the 2017 Eastern Conference semifinals. Two months later, he was taking his talents to South Beach to play for the Miami Heat.
Olynyk might still be a Celtic if Gordon Hayward, who met with the Heat in free agency in the summer of 2017, decided to pass on the Celtics and join Pat Riley's roster instead.
"I mean, who knows where any of us would be right now otherwise?" Olynyk told the South Florida Sun-Sentinel's Ira Winderman ahead of Thursday night's Celtics vs. Heat matchup in Miami.
Olynyk was a restricted free agent that summer as his rookie contract expired. The Heat offered him a four-year, $50 million offer sheet, and he wisely accepted. The Celtics, understandbly, weren't going to match that after agreeing to a max contract with Hayward.
"I don't even know if the Heat would have offered me an offer sheet," Olynyk said, per Winderman. "So you never know what happened. If he didn't sign there, maybe I would be back in Boston now."
It's really impossible to say with any certainty if Olynyk would still be with the Celtics right now had Hayward gone elsewhere. Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge turned over nearly his entire 2016-17 roster, headlined by the blockbuster trade with the Cleveland Cavaliers that included swapping point guards Isaiah Thomas and Kyrie Irving. Ainge isn't afraid to trade anyone if it's going to make his team better.
Olynyk was a solid player for Boston, but it's probably for the best he moved on. He's currently averaging 9.7 points per game and shooting just 33.7 percent from 3-point range. The Celtics have a lot of decisions to make in free agency over the next few years, and not having Olynyk's $12-plus million salary cap hit on the books is helpful. The Celtics gave Marcus Smart a very similar four-year contract in July, and he provides much more value than Olynyk.
Olynyk will be squaring off against Hayward as a Celtic for the first time Thursday night. Hayward, of course, missed all the Celtics-Heat meetings last season due to injury. It should provide Olynyk with extra motivation to play well, and improve on his 17.3 points per game average against the C's from last year.
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