Realistically, Hayward will probably end up back in Charlotte next year. They paid him a lot of money and moving him after one year could be a bad look.
That being said, it’s only right to explore potential options. Trading Hayward for younger assets could work out in favor of Charlotte. The hard part, however, is finding the right deal.
Hayward joined the Hornets last offseason, putting up All-Star numbers before suffering a foot injury that ended his season. He averaged 19.6 PPG, 5.9 RG, and 4.1 APG in 44 games last season.
The one-time All-Star is set to make $29.9 million next season and is on the books through the 2023-24 season. Trading him could prove difficult, but there would certainly be a market.
The upside to dealing Hayward would be clearing cap space and opening up minutes for younger players. Miles Bridges played well last year and will be in need of a contract extension at the end of next season.
With all that in mind, what would the market look like for Hayward around the league? What could the Hornets get in return?
Trade Option #1
Hornets Receive: Myles Turner, Jeremy Lamb, 2023 Second-Round-Pick
Pacers Receive: Gordon Hayward
Not only would the Hornets solve their issue at the five with this deal, but they also bring back a familiar face. Myles Turner and Jeremy Lamb would be able to help the team compete immediately.
Turner provides some much-needed rim protection. He also gives Charlotte an elite pick-n-pop option to put next to LaMelo Ball.
Lamb provides some bench shooting, but will also be off the books after next season. If the Hornets choose to re-sign him, great, but if not it wouldn’t hurt them at all.
The Hornets could roll out a starting lineup of Ball, Terry Rozier, Bridges, PJ Washington, and Turner. It would set them up well for the future by giving their young core a ton of playing time.
As for Indiana, they bring in a hometown kid to help them compete immediately. They wanted to get this deal done last offseason with the Celtics, but the Hornets swooped in and ruined their plans.
Lamb was in and out of the lineup due to injuries last season, so losing him doesn’t hurt them too much. As for Turner, there have been internal concerns for a while about playing him and Domantas Sabonis in tandem.
The Pacers recently fired head coach Nate Bjorkgren due to his inexperience. They hope to fight for the playoffs year-in and year-out, and adding Hayward certainly helps with that.
Trade Option #2
Hornets Receive: Dwight Powell, Josh Richardson, Josh Green, 2025 First-Round Pick
Mavericks Receive: Gordon Hayward
This deal may not seem enticing at face-value, but it helps the Hornets fill a hole on their roster. Dwight Powell has proven to be a quality NBA center and would definitely be an upgrade at that position.
A solid all-around player, Powell may not excel in any category, but he would provide some stability for the Hornets at the five. He is under contract through the 2022-23 season for around $11 million.
Josh Richardson would be a solid piece to come off the Hornets’ bench instead of the Martin twins. Richardson has struggled shooting the ball in recent years, but still shoots around league-average for his career.
He would have to opt-in to his player option for this deal to go through. Richardson would make $11.6 million if he were to accept the option.
As for Josh Green, this is probably the highlight of the deal for Charlotte. The 20-year-old received little playing time last year in Dallas, but would have more of a chance to thrive with the Hornets.
Green was a solid all-around wing in college. He averaged 12.0 PPG, 4.6 RPG, and 2.6 APG in his 30 games at Arizona, while shooting 42.4% from the field and 36.1% from deep.
As for the Mavericks, rather than trading Kristaps Porzingis, they form a big three with him, Hayward, and Luka Doncic.
With the new reports leaking that Doncic is becoming unhappy in Dallas, putting more talent around him has to be a priority. Hayward would give the team a secondary ball-handling option, while also putting more shooting around Doncic.
Trade Option #3
Hornets Receive: Will Barton, Jamychal Green, Zeke Nnaji, Bol Bol
Nuggets Receive: Gordon Hayward
This trade sees the Hornets get a little bit wild, adding both young assets and veterans. Meanwhile, the Nuggets get a steady-handed veteran to help them compete right away with their young core.
Acquiring Will Barton is pretty straightforward - the Hornets get a scoring wing to improve their depth. He is an above-average three-point shooter that plays some solid defense.
Jamychal Green is more of a throw-in piece to match salary. However, he would be able to run some small-ball five for Charlotte if need be.
As for Zeke Nnaji, he’s a name that not many Hornets fans will know. Despite this, he could be the best trade asset they get back in this deal.
He shot lights out in limited minutes with the Nuggets last season. The 6’9” PF/C shot 48.1% from the field and 40.7% from three-point range in 42 games with Denver.
Lastly, Bol Bol is the name most fans would get the most excited about. He was a highly-touted prospect coming out of the draft and would prove to be a project for Charlotte.
Despite the hype, he hasn’t produced much in Denver due to limited minutes. However, he did shoot the ball well through his first two NBA seasons, shooting 45.3% from the field and 37.5% from deep.
The Nuggets improve drastically with this trade. Adding Hayward to a core of Nikola Jokic, Jamal Murray, and Michael Porter Jr. would immediately thrust them into contention.
So, while it may be very unlikely that the Hornets move on from Hayward this soon, there is a market out there. It’s just a matter of what direction the organization wants to go in.