Celtics Futures: Brad Stevens Confirms No Gordon Hayward Won’t Play This Season

gordon-hayward-celticsThe Boston Celtics are having another very good season. They’re currently 44-20, sitting just 1.5 games back of the top-seeded Toronto Raptors (44-17) in the East.

But the team would be doing even better if they had All-Star forward Gordon Hayward healthy. Hayward broke his ankle in the season opener against the Cleveland Cavaliers and hasn’t played a minute since.

Celtics fans were hoping that he could make it back onto the court at some point this season. This was especially the case recently, when he posted a video of himself dribbling and shooting around.

But if there was any hope that Hayward can make it back this season, head Coach Brad Stevens dashed this notion.

“He’s still super long way from even being in a 1-on-1 workout where he’s cutting,” Stevens told reporters.

Stevens Wants to Focus on the Current Roster – Not Hayward’s Small Chance of Playing

Given that there are less than 20 games left in the regular season and Hayward isn’t even close to 1-on-1 drills, it’s a given that he won’t be ready for playoff basketball in April.

Stevens has essentially known all along that there’s a very slim chance his star forward would play. And he’s been saying over and over that he doesn’t think Hayward will suit up. But this is the most definitive he’s been about saying so.

Celtics Thinking about the Future

Sure, Boston could try to rush Hayward back in hopes that he could support a playoff run. But this Celtics team has been focused on building for the future ever since the 2014 steal they got in a trade with the Brooklyn Nets.

GM Danny Ainge used the assets from this trade to construct a team that’s capable of competing for the Eastern Conference title year in and year out.

Having Hayward slowly work his way back into shape only fits the notion that Boston wants to get him ready for next season. This is especially the case when considering that Hayward’s ankle was reportedly swollen and purple during All-Star weekend.

Celtics Still Have Plenty Left to Chase Title

kyrie-irving-celticsBoston’s hopes for winning the East and competing for the NBA championship would be far better if they had Hayward. But it’s not like the cupboard is totally bare right now.

The team still has All-NBA point guard Kyrie Irving (24.8 PPG) leading the charge. And he has an excellent supporting cast with Jaylon Brown (14.0 PPG), Jayson Tatum (13.2 PPG), Al Horford (12.8 PPG), Marcus Morris (12.8 PPG), Terry Rozier (10.4 PPG), Marcus Smart (10.1 PPG), and Greg Monroe (8.3 PPG).

The Celtics are still within striking distance of earning the top seed in the East before the playoffs start. Overtaking the Raptors would give Boston home-court advantage throughout the Eastern Conference playoffs.

Even if they can’t catch Toronto, the Celtics would still have home court in the first round and semifinals. This is huge, assuming they run into the Cavs (36-26) in the second round. And the way the standings currently shape up, this is a definite possibility.

Boston Celtics 2018 Futures

While Boston currently holds a 6-game lead over Cleveland, they’re still not favored to win the East in our GTBets NBA futures. The Cavs are a big favorite at -120, mainly because LeBron James is still the top of his game. Furthermore, Cleveland has been the East champions three seasons in a row.

Boston is also sitting behind Toronto in our odds. Assuming they can move past the Raptors in the standings, then they’ll likely move up in our NBA futures too.

Boston currently has the fifth-best odds (+2000) odds of winning the NBA title. Aside from being behind Cleveland (+750) and Toronto (+1400), they’re also behind the Golden State Warriors (-200) and Houston Rockets (+250).

The team felt like they had a “formula” to beat the Warriors last year, thanks to two victories over the eventual champions. But that was with a very different roster, and there’s been a lot of turnover this season.

It’d be interesting to see how this new-look Celtics team performs in the playoffs. Last year, they made the Eastern Conference Finals and were beaten by the Cavs 4-1.

Here’s a look at our NBA futures as of now:

2018 NBA Eastern Conference Futures

  • Cleveland -120
  • Toronto +310
  • Boston +400
  • Milwaukee +2000
  • Philadelphia +2000
  • Washington +2000
  • Indiana +7500

2018 NBA Championship Futures

  • Golden State -200
  • Houston +250
  • Cleveland +750
  • Toronto +1400
  • Boston +2000
  • Oklahoma City +3500
  • San Antonio +3500
  • Washington +6000
  • Milwaukee +7500
  • Minnesota +8000
  • Philadelphia +8000

Did Jimmy Butler Take a Big Risk with Meniscus Surgery to Play in 2018?

jimmy-butler-2018-injury-returnJimmy Butler recently suffered a meniscus injury to his right knee. He underwent successful surgery and could see the court again in as little as four weeks.

This has to make the team feel good, given that they feared Butler was lost for the year when he crumpled to the floor. But it’s also possible that he’s put his long-term health in jeopardy by choosing to have a specific meniscus surgery.

The Ringer’s Kevin O’Connor reports that Butler could’ve opted for a full meniscus repair and returned in the 2018-19 campaign. But he instead went with a different surgery and shorter recovery timeline.

“An NBA executive explained to me that the Yahoo Sports’ timeline suggests that the torn part of the meniscus will be “shaved” via arthroscopic surgery, which often leads to a faster recovery, but can lead to pain or complications down the line,” writes O’Connor.

“The alternative was for Butler to undergo a full repair, which involves sewing the tear together like you might mend ripped jeans. That route would have produced fewer potential complications, but also would have sidelined him the rest of the season.”

Did Coach Tom Thibodeau’s Culture Influence This Decision?

Minnesota coach Tom Thibodeau has always been a hard-driving coach who preaches hustle and strong defense regardless of the situation. And Butler, who also played for Thibodeau in Chicago, has thrived under this system.

But there will inevitably be people who question whether Thibodeaeu’s team culture influenced Butler to make this decision.

After all, his system calls for toughness and a willingness to play through pain. And questions will arise if Butler has more problems flare up in the same knee.

However, this is also merely speculation and nobody outside the organization truly knows the full story. In fact, there are times where a full repair isn’t an option.

And considering how competitive Butler is, he likely opted for surgery that would help him return to the court sooner than later.

What Kind of Future is Butler Looking at?

jimmy-butler-timberwolves-injury-1Butler is currently 28 years old and in the prime of his career. He’s had a great season so far too, averaging 22.4 PPG, 5.0 APG, 5.4 RPG, and 1.9 SPG.

But how he rebounds from this knee surgery will go a long way towards determining his NBA future. Assuming everything is alright, he may sign another big deal with the Timberwolves. Or he might find a more-lucrative deal elsewhere.

Here’s more from O’Connor on what could happen between Minnesota and Butler when his deal ends in 2019 (player option) or 2020:

“Butler will make $20.4 million in 2018-19 and has a $19.8 million player option for 2019-20. If he declines his option and signed an extension this summer, Butler’s deal would start at “only” $24.5 million in 2019-20 but provide immediate long-term security.

“If he waits until next summer, he could earn 30 percent of the 2019-20 salary cap—or roughly $32.4 million (based on a projected salary cap of $108 million). Long-term security is nice, so that’s not a bad deal for a player who has missed a lot of games with injuries in the past and whose aggressive style doesn’t exactly bode well for a long, sustainable career.”

O’Connor adds that Butler could even decline his player option in 2019-20 and test the free agent market. Again, as long as his knee is at full strength, he’ll fetch a giant contract from somebody.

Minnesota may decide that they’re not willing to pay him, given how expensive their younger players are. Andrew Wiggins already inked a maximum extension in October, which he hasn’t justified so far.

butler-wiggins-townsGorgui Dieng was re-signed to a deal that’s he’s not playing up to. And this lasts until the 2020-21 campaign. Jeff Teague is also on an expensive contract through the 2019-20 season.

Then there’s Karl-Anthony Towns, whom the team will look to keep at all costs. Towns is going to be a free agent in 2019 and will command a max deal with the T-Wolves, or wherever he goes.

Butler is still more valuable than any of these players in the immediate future. But Minnesota must still evaluate his injury history before re-signing him when the time comes.

2018 Minnesota Timberwolves Futures

The Timberwolves opened the 2017-18 season as darkhorse title contenders after trading for Butler. And they’ve played up to this billing so far, sitting at 38-28 and fourth place in the Western Conference right now.

But as can be seen in our 2018 NBA futures at GTBets, Minnesota doesn’t have a great chance to win the title. They currently have the 9th best odds at +8000.

Will these odds change with a healthy Butler? We’ll soon find out in the coming weeks.

2018 NBA Championship Futures

  • Golden State -200
  • Houston +250
  • Cleveland +750
  • Toronto +1400
  • Boston +2000
  • Oklahoma City +3500
  • San Antonio +3500
  • Washington +6000
  • Milwaukee +7500
  • Minnesota +8000
  • Philadelphia +8000