What is Gordon Hayward’s Charlotte Hornets legacy?

Gordon Hayward, Charlotte Hornets Mandatory Credit: Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports
Gordon Hayward, Charlotte Hornets Mandatory Credit: Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports /

Gordon Hayward’s time in Charlotte is almost done. Gordon Hayward joined the Charlotte Hornets in the 2020 offseason after signing a four-year contract worth $120 million. During his first season with the Hornets in the 2020-2021 NBA season, Hayward had a solid start, averaging around 19 points, 5.9 rebounds, and 4.1 assists per game before sustaining an injury. Hayward suffered a right foot sprain that caused him to miss significant time during the season. And after playing 44 of the first 48 games

While Hayward’s numbers were respectable when he played, injuries have disrupted his impact on the team. He has missed a substantial number of games due to various injuries throughout his Hornets tenure, all of which have substantially limited his ability to contribute consistently. His 50 games in the 2022-23 season were his most as a member of Charlotte’s team. Considering he was the most expensive free agent acquisition in the franchise’s history, it’s understandable that the fans have been less than enthused when the talented wing player couldn’t stay healthy long enough to make the postseason in Queen City.

What happens with Gordon Hayward moving forward?

So what now? There is only one more year left on his deal. And while expiring contracts usually hold some value in the NBA because trading for them can give teams flexibility moving forward, Hayward’s injury history and steady decline in on-court production make him a special case. Sure, there will be teams eager to swap bad contracts for him, but that won’t appeal to a Hornets team in need of a rebuild.

The likely end to his time in Charlotte will be that the team wishes him well on his way out the door, and he becomes a buyout candidate after being shopped during the season. Picked up in the secondary market by a team hoping he can regain some of the consistency that has evaded him as a Hornets player.

The best-case scenario would be a team that feels like they are close to competing for a title, and want to make a short-term upgrade for a run at the Larry O’Brien trophy. The problem with that is, coming off his healthiest season in Charlotte, Hayward regressed. The offseason holds promise for a return to a higher level of play for the former All-Star. A full offseason that Hayward can dedicate to playing basketball and not to recovery could mean the world to his game. Then, he could get the opportunity to play the sort of high-level basketball for a competitor that has eluded him for his entire career.

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