Knicks Rumors: Latest on Gordon Hayward

Could the New York Knicks be making a play for Gordon Hayward?

With Boston Celtics star Gordon Hayward opting out of his $34 million player option, rumors are picking up steam over the possibility that the 30-year-old forward will join the New York Knicks.

The strongest indication yet coming from Jonathan Macri of Knicks Film School who reported on Friday – hours before free agency was set to begin – that Hayward is considering a potential 3-year, $70 million offer from the Knicks.

Ian Begley of SNY appeared on a free agency preview show shortly after Macri’s report, and Begley said that it was his assumption the Knicks were more of a “Plan B” for Hayward if his preferred destination didn’t work out. It’s unclear if the Indiana native is looking to return to his hometown, but the Pacers are considered a strong suitor in a potential sign-and-trade.

Hayward had his career abruptly put on hold just minutes into the 2017-18 season when he suffered a fractured tibia and dislocated ankle in his left leg in his first game after signing a multi-year deal with the Boston Celtics.

After missing the entire season, he returned in 2018-19 and has been relatively healthy since, playing in 72 games that season, and after missing a month due to a fractured right hand, appearing in 52 contests this past year.

By adding assistant coach Johnnie Bryant and scouting guru Walt Perrin from Utah over the offseason, the Knicks might have put themselves in position to land Hayward. Tim MacMahon of ESPN believes Hayward’s relationship with Bryant and Perrin, along with New York’s ability to pay him, makes them the leader in the small pack of teams with enough financial flexibility to acquire him.

The Knicks currently have $35.9 million in cap space after acquiring veteran center Ed Davis from Utah on Thursday for two future second round picks in 2023.

New York could structure a multi-year deal with Hayward to be slightly front-loaded with his annual salary declining up to 5 percent each year, which would allow them to preserve a small amount of extra cap space down the line.

If Hayward were to sign with a first year salary around $24 million, it would leave the Knicks with $12 million in cap space, but moving Julius Randle’s $18.9 million salary off the books offers a pathway to create more room.