By Marc Auker
The Boston Celtics brought on one of the NBA’s most sought-after free agents to help contend against the Cleveland Cavaliers and the rest of the Eastern Conference. On July 4, Gordon Hayward decided to leave the Utah Jazz, the team he’s spent his entire seven-year career with, and join forces with a Boston squad that is coached by Brad Stevens, his former coach at Butler University.
Speculation as to which team would land the Western Conference All-Star from last season was heavy in recent weeks. Hayward met with the Celtics, the Miami Heat and the Jazz to shop around offers for his highly-coveted talents at the small forward position. It was Boston who ultimately emerged victorious in the Hayward sweepstakes.
The ninth pick in the 2010 NBA Draft, Hayward helped bring Utah out of obscurity in the Western Conference in his seven-year tenure with the team. Last season, spearheaded by Hayward’s 21.9 points per game, the Jazz finished tied for fourth in the West with a record of 51-31. Though the team experienced vastly more success than seasons prior, the Jazz ran into the brick wall known as the Golden State Warriors in the Western Conference semi-finals.
Hayward could be just what the Celtics need to overtake the Cavaliers at the top of the mountain in the Eastern Conference this upcoming season. Cleveland beat a Boston team without its star player, Isiah Thomas, in the Eastern Conference finals. If everyone remains healthy, and Hayward plays up to the level of play he’s become accustomed to, Boston has a real opportunity to dethrone Lebron “King” James and his Cavs.