The rumors have begun: Gordon Hayward to the Indiana Pacers. A pairing of Hayward and Pacers star Paul George would certainly be fun, but is it even a remote possibility? While George publicly stated his interest in playing with the Indiana product back in March of this year, Hayward has never made the same type of comments. Of course, why would he? Hayward is absolutely adored in Utah and similar to George, could receive an astronomical offer if he receives All-NBA honors this year. Now don’t take this the wrong way; Hayward very well could bolt town for the Pacers. It’s common sense he wouldn’t openly talk about that being his plan while still with the Jazz. The purpose of this article is not to state the case either way but to examine how the move would be possible.
What would the financial aspects have to look like for Hayward to be a Pacer? As it currently sits, the Pacers organization is just barely under the cap and strapped for financial flexibility. Luckily, depending on how you feel, the Pacers have a few big contracts expiring this year. Jeff Teague’s $8.8 million and Aaron Brooks’s $2.7 million salaries will both come off the books this offseason as both players are free agents. However, here is where things get interesting, as Teague was arguably the best point guard the team has had in years. Many fans want him back and even with both of those players’ salaries gone, the organization would still lack the room to sign Hayward without exceeding the cap.
Enter Monta Ellis and Al Jefferson. Both players are aging and have massive salaries of roughly $10.5 million each. Kevin Pritchard would have to find a creative way to dump the salaries of these two players. While it admittedly would be difficult to move both players on team-friendly deals, it is possible. For example, say the Pacers offer Ellis to the Brooklyn Nets for a player like Joe Harris and Jefferson to the Suns for Leandro Barbosa, who was formerly a Pacer. These two trades coupled with Brooks’s deal expiring would clear a staggering $18.8 million in cap space.
Take into account the above moves and couple it with what Larry Bird said before stepping down as president that when he saw this year’s budget he almost wanted to stay. If the Pacers are willing to pay the luxury tax, the sky is really the limit in the 2017 offseason. Picture a lineup of Teague, George, Hayward, Thad Young and Myles Turner with Lance Stephenson, Glen Robinson III, Joe Harris, and Kevin Seraphin coming off the bench. That would be a team instantly favored in the East and provide George with the help he wants and needs.
Regardless of what happens in the coming months, one thing is certain: 2017 will be a pivotal offseason both short-term and long-term for the Indiana Pacers franchise.