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NBA free agency 2020: Gordon Hayward to sign four-year, $120 million deal with Hornets

Ben Rohrbach
·3-min read

Gordon Hayward, one of the biggest names on the NBA’s unrestricted free-agency market, has agreed to a four-year, $120 million contract with the Charlotte Hornets, according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski.

The Hornets will reportedly stretch the $27 million remaining on Nicolas Batum’s contract to create enough cap space to sign Hayward. It is a massive commitment to the former Butler star at this stage in his career.

An All-Star in his final season with the Utah Jazz in 2016-17, Hawyard has been snake-bitten by injuries ever since. He suffered a gruesome ankle injury five minutes into his last free-agent contract with the Boston Celtics. He was a shell of himself in 2018-19, mostly coming off the bench. Hayward returned to form this past season, only to suffer a badly sprained right ankle injury that cost him most of the playoffs.

Hayward still enjoyed one of the most efficient seasons in NBA history as a fourth option on a Celtics team with 2020 title aspirations, despite a fractured left hand that cost him a month. As a complement to Jayson Tatum, Kemba Walker and Jaylen Brown, Hayward averaged 17.5 points (on 50/38/86 shooting splits), 6.7 rebounds and 4.1 assists in just 33.5 minutes over 52 games. No other player this century has averaged a 17-6-4 with so low a usage rate (21.1%), let alone so efficiently (59.5% true shooting).

Hayward entered free agency on Thursday. He declined a $34.2 million player option for the 2020-21 season, considerable guaranteed money in an uncertain financial market with so few teams holding cap space. His decision projected confidence that he could make it up on the back end of his next contract.

Gordon Hayward enjoyed a high-efficiency, low-usage bounce-back season with the Boston Celtics in 2019-20. (Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
Gordon Hayward enjoyed a high-efficiency, low-usage bounce-back season with the Boston Celtics in 2019-20. (Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

The Celtics were almost five points per 100 possessions better with Hayward in the lineup last season, second on the team only to Tatum in on/off differential. Boston operated at top-three levels both offensively and defensively with Hayward on the court, scoring 113.8 points per 100 possessions and allowing 105.4.

He may not attack the rim with the same reckless abandon that made him a rising star in Utah (his free-throw attempts have been cut in half since the ankle injury), but the hope is Hayward will continue to be a super-efficient offensive player who can serve as a lead playmaker with increased usage. The 6-foot-7, 225-pound can also defend multiple positions and is the most accomplished available free agent this offseason.

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Ben Rohrbach is a staff writer for Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at rohrbach_ben@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter! Follow @brohrbach

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