“Gordon Hayward is a different player now, obviously, but one thing about Pat Riley, he does fixate, he has guys who once he likes them, he kind of keeps trying to bring them in, even later in their careers,” one Eastern Conference executive told Heavy Sports. “You see it with Goran Dragic and now (Josh) Richardson, guys like that. And Hayward does a lot that would fit for them.”
The Heat failed to significantly upgrade their roster despite wholehearted attempts this past offseason. But they continue to be linked to players around the league as they attempt to find a way back to the NBA Finals.
After famously missing out on one 33-year-old – Damian Lillard – this summer, they could turn to another — Hayward — to provide some versatility.
The Butler University product almost signed with the Heat as a free agent during the summer of 2017 but instead chose to join the Boston Celtics, who were coached by his former college coach Brad Stevens at the time.
Hayward memorably suffered a devastating leg injury in the opener of the subsequent 2017-18 season. He did not play again that season, and his time with the Celtics ended in November of 2020 when he was traded to the Hornets.
This season, he is averaging 15.2 points, 4.9 rebounds and 4.7 assists per game in 22 appearances.
“There is no question that the guy can help a team,” the executive said. “The skill level he has at his size (6-foot-7) is special and when you talk about teams that want to play positionless basketball, which is everyone, pretty much, these days, he is the guy you want for that.”
Despite those solid statistics from Hayward, the Hornets have a dismal 7-18 record after losing at the Toronto Raptors on Monday. With a current five-game losing streak and just two wins in its past 11 games, Charlotte may be ready to move some older players to better prepare for the future.
The Heat, on the other hand, are poised to make another strong playoff run. Despite losing to the Minnesota Timberwolves on Monday, they performed well against a team that is tied for the best record in the NBA.
There also is reason for even more Miami optimism as Tyler Herro and Bam Adebayo returned from injuries and seemingly were able to pick up right where they left off. They combined to score 47 points in the 112-108 loss that put the team’s record at 15-12.
Hayward may not be at the level of Lillard or other previous Miami targets such as Jrue Holiday or Bradley Beal. But the Heat have regularly shown they are willing to do whatever it takes to improve in a relentless effort to win another championship.