Signing Gordon Hayward would improve the Knicks roster in the short-term, but he isn’t the right player to help build a championship contender in New York.
If the Knicks’ offseason goal is to assemble a roster to win the maximum number of games next season then signing Gordon Hayward makes a lot of sense. If, on the other hand, New York wants to engage in a careful roster construction capable of building a consistent championship contender, then inking Hayward to a massive contract could prove to be a fatal mistake.
Hayward’s decision to opt-out of the final year of his deal with the Celtics surprised a lot of NBA fans, but it was a rumor circulating amongst league insiders for weeks. Leaving $34 million on the table is always a tough decision, but Hayward clearly values the chance to get a fresh start, and a long-term contract somewhere other than Boston.
What do the Knicks need this offseason?
It’s only natural that rumors connecting him to the Knicks would pop up. New York made a conscious decision to part with almost every veteran on the roster to create as much cap room as they reasonably could. Hayward immediately becomes one of the best free agents to hit the unrestricted market.
None of that means it would be a good move for the Knicks. Signing an injury-prone 30-year-old to a lucrative, long-term contract is not a move that should interest a team that’s nowhere near championship contention. Instead of spending their cap space on big free-agent signings, the Knicks front office should be focused on utilizing that space to acquire bad contracts in trades that can add to their future draft capital.
A core of Hayward, RJ Barrett, Mitchell Robinson, and first-round pick Obi Toppin might be enough to get the Knicks in contention for a playoff berth, but it’s not going to vault them into the upper-echelon of the Eastern Conference. Signing Hayward to a big deal would be a classic example of the Knicks trying to win the short-term media cycle rather than meticulously building a roster to contend for an extended period of time.
Knicks fans should hope that their favorite team’s interest in Hayward is a clever move by their front office designed to pressure another team into overpaying the talented, but brittle free agent. If New York does “win” the race to sign Hayward, it will doom them to an extended period of mediocrity that won’t make anyone happy in the end.