Overpaid: Gordon Hayward $31.5 million
The initial idea to sign Gordon Hayward made sense for the Hornets. Bringing in a veteran with playoff experience could help the franchise take a step forward and be a valuable veteran presence on a team full of young players looking to improve from their disappointing 23-42 finish in the 2019-20 season. Even though Charlotte did improve by 10 wins each in the first two seasons with Hayward, last year went off the rails. Not exclusively for Hayward, but for pretty much everyone involved.
Hayward has seen his production decline in each season with Charlotte. Scoring has dropped in three consecutive seasons, from 19.6 to 15.9 and finally to 14.7 this past season. As expected, the made field goals have also dropped coinciding with the points per game, (7.1 in 2020-21, 5.8 in 2021-22, 5.5 in 2022-23). This is the natural progression of a player on the other side of 30, but the fact his salary is rising while his production is not is far from ideal.
Now in the fourth and final year of his four-year $120 million deal, Hayward’s salary comes in as the seventh-highest-paid small forward in the NBA for the 2023-24 season. The 33-year-old veteran is a good, but not great player with a career full of injuries and has never played more than 50 games during his Hornets tenure. Taking this into consideration and where Hayward is at this point in his career, this does seem like a bit much for the Hornets to be paying at this time. Perhaps they will field offers to move on from Hayward at some point during the season as they appear to be embracing younger players on the roster.