Gordon Hayward’s Move to Charlotte Surprised the NBA the Most

Gordon Hayward was one of the most coveted free agents in this abbreviated but busy NBA offseason. After the bubble concluded, teams were scrambling with less time than usual to fill needs in free agency. After playing for the Boston Celtics for several seasons, Hayward surprised many by jettisoning the team for a new destination with the Charlotte Hornets

A lot of people were caught off guard by Hayward’s decision, but one group in particular really didn’t see it coming. 

Gordon Hayward’s decision in free agency

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First, the particulars of Hayward’s massive contract. ESPN reported on November 21, 2020, that Hayward signed a four-year, $120 million deal with Charlotte. The move is a bit of a downgrade contractually for Hayward. He’d previously signed a four-year, $127 million deal with the C’s. He opted out of his contract’s final season to head south, costing him about $34 million

Hayward came to Boston with much fanfare, but he had a rough go of it during his time playing in Beantown. He suffered a nearly career-ending injury in his first game as a Celtic. While he was eventually able to come back and contribute, he suffered a series of nagging injuries that plagued him throughout the rest of his time there. 

Now Hayward finds himself on a different team with a fresh start and a clean slate. He’ll have an opportunity to be the No. 1 option in Charlotte, whereas in Boston there were several other offensive weapons ahead of him. 

Gordon Hayward’s 2020-21 season so far

Gordon Hayward and Devonte Graham of the Charlotte Hornets
Gordon Hayward and Devonte Graham of the Charlotte Hornets | Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images

So how is Hayward playing for Charlotte so far? It’s still too early to evaluate how well the contract is working out, but in three games he’s playing quite well. According to Basketball Reference, he’s averaging 22.7 points, seven assists, and five rebounds per game. From a scoring perspective, it’s still far too soon to gauge how much of an impact he’ll have, but if these numbers hold up, he’ll have the highest per game scoring average of his career.

Unfortunately, it has yet to translate into making the Hornets a winning team. They’re currently 1-2. Again, there is plenty of time left in the season for the team to right their ship, and 1-2 after three games is hardly a death sentence. The team also has to be encouraged by the play they’ve seen out of Hayward. Even if they haven’t won more games so far, they’re at least getting a decent return on their investment. 

Who was most shocked by Gordon Hayward’s move to Charlotte? 

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For the last 19 years, details NBA.com, the league has surveyed its general managers on several topics before the season. One of the questions involves the most surprising offseason move. 54% of the GMs surveyed listed Hayward heading to Charlotte as the most surprising move. The second-place finisher, the Russell Westbrook-John Wall trade, wasn’t even close at 18%. 

This shows just how shocking the move was. Hayward moved from a potential title contender in Boston to an also-ran in Charlotte. The move didn’t even make sense from a financial standpoint either. One has to question how Hayward will improve his chances to contend for a championship. The Hornets don’t seem likely to be among the conference’s top teams, though with Hayward, they’re better off than they were before.