Before the Boston Celtics acquired the services of Gordon Hayward the team was already in a position to threaten the Eastern Conference supremacy of LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers. The Celtics were riding high this past season with top honors in the East thanks to their 53 wins. With MVP candidate, Isaiah Thomas leading the way many figured this would be the season where the Cavs would finally be challenged or even beat. But Thomas went down with an injury and the Celtics walked off into the offseason with doubt.
But was there any real reason to have such doubt?
As the NBA Draft grew closer, so did the whispers of trade rumors. There were talks of Paul George, Jimmy Butler, and even Klay Thompson coming to Boston but nothing happened. Then the Celtics made their move. Danny Ainge traded their No. 1 pick to the Philadelphia 76ers, then made the spectacular grab for Hayward. But is Hayward the answer for the Cavaliers and LeBron?
To be honest, I didn’t see them beating the Cavs last season. Maybe they would’ve snuck 2 games out of the series but the team was just coming into their own in 2016. The Thomas’ injury hurt but it did offer them an excuse. Now, with Hayward, the Celtics have that 2nd or 3rd scoring option needed to dethrone the Cavs. However, the question is– can he adjust?
Thomas is the main attraction for Boston. He directs the offense and tends to take over when necessary. Al Horford is a great piece to the puzzle with his inside game but how much of the ball will Hayward see? Hayward was the scoring option for the Utah Jazz throughout his time there and now he will be asked to help carry the load instead of carrying the load himself. In all fairness to his skills– this is the best thing for his career. The pressure is not on his shoulders. If the Celts were to fall to the Cavs in the playoffs, the heat will fall on Ainge and Thomas.
But if Hayward can come in and average close to his usual 20 points per game, while providing defense then why not? Why can’t he be the missing link to the NBA Finals?
The Cavaliers are a good bunch of players and have been through their ups and downs together for the past three seasons. But in the process of running through the East, they may have gained rubber legs. Three straight Finals appearances will do that making this the perfect time for the Celtics to take advantage. Plus, there is also the possibility that Kyrie Irving may not be a member of the Cavs. Now you have tired legs, inner-turmoil and a reloaded Celtics team who smells blood.
Hayward is good. Not LeBron good but what makes him a star is that he can make everyone else better plus he can play within a system. If the Celtics can continue with their 2016 agenda of playing tight defense with great perimeter shooting then they have the best chance to take down the reigning EC Champs. Hayward is the key. Boston knows this and hopefully Gordon will too.