The Hornets are signing Gordon Hayward to the largest deal of free agency so far – four years, $120 million.
That surpasses the $85 million over four years the Raptors will pay Fred VanVleet. It will probably top Anthony Davis‘ max contract with the Lakers, as he’ll likely take fewer years. Only Brandon Ingram‘s eventual max(-ish?) contract will likely land ahead of Hayward’s deal.
On some levels, it seems silly Charlotte will pay Hayward – a 30-year-old who hasn’t been an All-Star in three years and has health issues – so much.
But other teams were apparently in the ballpark.
Zach Lowe of ESPN:
It’s not like the Pacers and the Celtics were offering 80 million dollars. They weren’t offering 120. But my best intel is something like 105, 108, 102, 110.
Hayward had a few things going for him:
He had a $34,187,085 player option for next season. Teams had to convey big long-term offers just to get him onto the market.
This was a relatively weak free-agent class. If not signing Hayward, teams had underwhelming alternatives.
Hayward is a wing. There’s a dearth of quality wings league-wide.
So, Hayward created a bidding war that led to this large contract.
The Hornets even plan to incur a sizable cap hit over the next three years, stretching Nicolas Batum just to clear cap space for Hayward(though it’s still possible Charlotte and Boston agree to a sign-and-trade). Likewise, the Pacers – lacking cap space – would’ve had to send assets to the Celtics in a sign-and-trade. Boston would’ve been near the luxury-tax line if keeping Hayward, adding real dollars to the cost of keep him.
So, there’s an interpretation Hayward’s perceived value was even higher than the $102 million-$120 million offered to him.
Of course, whether he’ll actually produce that way the next four years is another question.