The Toronto Raptors are one season away from a full rebuild. Just weeks after they lifted the NBA Title, Kawhi Leonard departed for the Los Angeles Clippers. Now they have a roster consisting of promising young players and aging stars at the end of their contracts. However, if Masai Ujiri wants a quick rebuild, the Toronto Raptors should trade for Gordon Hayward. The move could immediately kickstart the next era for the Raptors.
Gordon Hayward’s Fit for the Toronto Raptors
The Raptors are approaching a tumultuous time as the veterans from their title run inevitably leave or retire. At the end of the 2019-20, Marc Gasol, Fred VanVleet, Kyle Lowry, and Serge Ibaka will all be free agents. This leaves the Raptors with Pascal Siakam, OG Anunoby, and Norman Powell as the only rotation players from their championship team left. It is clear that Ujiri believes that Siakam– who will be eligible for a $3 million qualifying offer — and Anunoby are the future of this franchise. That is a solid base, but adding the former All-Star immediately vaults Toronto back up toward the top of the Eastern Conference.
Hayward’s most valuable NBA skill is his playmaking from the wing position. He does not have gaudy assist numbers, but that is more of a product of the system he played in with the Utah Jazz and also due to the amount of ball-dominant players on the Boston Celtics. On the Raptors, he could be unleashed as a primary ball-handler. Raptors fans should be salivating at the prospect of a Hayward and Siakam pick-and-roll. Assuming last season was a blip, similar to the major drop Paul George had in his first season back from injury, Hayward should return to the production he had his last two seasons in Utah.
The Boston Celtics
The eastern conference is in a bit of turmoil right now and nobody really knows what is going to happen. On paper, the two best teams are the Milwaukee Bucks and the Philadelphia 76ers. While some will say that losing Malcolm Brogdon sets Milwaukee back, the additions of Kyle Korver and Wesley Matthews should replace his production. Philadelphia, on the other hand, has another season of growth for their young stars and adding veteran Al Horford was a massive coup. The lineups will be strange for Philadelphia, but they could work out.
The Boston Celtics are still a quality team. Swapping Kyrie Irving for Kemba Walker could be an improvement as Walker is much more adept at playing off the ball. When going over their roster, though, it is immediately apparent that they have no option to stop the combination of Joel Embiid and Horford or Giannis Antetokounmpo and Brook Lopez. However, Gasol has proven that he is one of the few players in the NBA who can stop Embiid. If Boston wants any chance of getting passed those two teams that are built around size, they will need a defensive center.
The Best Fit for Gordon Hayward
Paul George is the poster for returning from devastating injuries. While he has since morphed into an MVP candidate, there were some struggles during his initial return. Hayward now has two full years under him since breaking his ankle. He is a savvy enough player to become a star again.
While he clearly has the trust of Brad Stevens, Celtics fans are starting to get impatient with the 29-year-old. A new scene out of the American media limelight would probably help rejuvenate his career. Also, the Celtics are going to want the ball in the hands of either Walker, Jayson Tatum, or Jaylen Brown, leaving little room for Hayward to thrive. Coming to Toronto would give Hayward the chance to become the man along with Siakam.
Trading for Gordon Hayward makes sense for the Toronto Raptors, but also for the Boston Celtics and for Hayward himself.
Embed from Getty Images