We are all well aware of the plight of Gordon Hayward this season--having his season end almost before it started, suffering a gruesome injury (resulting in a dislocated ankle and tibia fracture in his left leg) only 315 seconds into the first game of the season.
Nobody wants to see an NBA player sustain a brutal, season-ending injury, especially just a few minutes into the start of the season. However, after the initial shock of Hayward's injury wore off, I'm guessing the unspoken thought of almost every Jazz fan was that his injury might be "pay-back karma," punishing Hayward for his actions in thoughtlessly leaving the Jazz "holding the bag" during the off season. Despite everything the Jazz had done for Hayward (giving him every opportunity to become both an all star and the centerpiece of the team, and shamelessly attempting to cater to his every whim leading up to free agency), the manner in which Hayward managed his free agency rivaled the much-criticized, shameless grandstanding of both LeBron James and Kevin Durant, when they left the teams that originally drafted them. Hayward seemed to value basking in the NBA spotlight much more than being even just a little bit loyal or helpful to the Jazz--by giving them any kind of heads-up on his decision. For whatever reason, Hayward led the Jazz on and convinced the team that it was still in the running to sign him in free agency, and then waited to announce his decision to sign with the Celtics until late in the day on the 4th day of the free agency period, after all the next-best free agent small forwards had already committed to sign with teams other than the Jazz, although it is now apparent that Hayward made his decision to sign with the Celtics well before the free agent signing period began.
Interestingly, in the aftermath of Hayward's injury, the Celtics appear to have moved on from him without missing a beat, currently having the best record in the NBA sans Gordon Hayward--although they are still paying his max salary without getting any production whatsoever from him this season. The Celtics have four talented young players on its current roster--other than Gordon Hayward--whose natural playing position is small forward, in Jaylen Brown, Jayson Tatum, Abdel Nader and Semi Ojeleye. And, both Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum seem poised to become all-stars while still on their rookie contracts. Because of the rapid development of both Brown and Tatum, who are currently giving the Celtics great production at a much cheaper cost than Hayward, the Celtics may be inclined to look around and see what they can get in a trade for Hayward, in order to fill more pressing needs for the team (which lacks depth at the power forward, center and shooting guard positions--but which has good depth at the SF and PG positions), and to get out from under Hayward's max contract.
I believe the Jazz has some players (and draft picks) that may be of interest to the Celtics, and whom the Jazz might be willing to trade. Derrick Favors has been showing his versatility as a combo center/power forward who could bolster the Celtics' front court, and who is on a very reasonable, expiring contract. Joe Ingles has similar defensive, play-making and shooting skills to those of Gordon Hayward (although he is obviously not close to being on the same level as Hayward as a scorer or a rebounder), who could add depth to the Celtics at both the shooting guard and small forward positions, and is on a very good contract. Alec Burks can create his own shot at the shooting guard position, and has recently been demonstrating that he has finally learned how to effectively utilize his considerable abilities on both defense and offense, after coming back from injury--and is on a short-term, reasonable contract. Ekpe Udoh is one of the best defensive big men in the NBA, who could serve as a legitimate rim protector for the Celtics, and who is on a very reasonable contract. Joe Johnson (if he recovers from his current wrist injury) is a playoff-tested veteran who could add scoring depth for the Celtics at the SF and stretch-4 PF positions, who could help the Celtics in the playoffs with his vast playoff experience, and who is on a reasonable, expiring contract. Rodney Hood is becoming more consistent in his shooting, can take over a game when he gets hot, and is on an expiring rookie contract. Royce O'Neale has shown flashes of undeveloped talent both offensively and defensively, and is on a very cheap contract. Thabo Sefolosha is a classic 3 and D combo forward, who can still shut down good opposing offensive players on defense while contributing offensively--and who is on a steal of a contract. Jonas Jerebko is a good rotation player stretch 4 PF on a very good contract (and who is very familiar with the Celtics). Finally, Ricky Rubio is a veteran point guard who is flawed but who still has some very good skills--who might be able to be traded to another team in a 3-team-deal (such as to Chicago, who needs a veteran point guard) for a position of need for the Celtics (such as Nikola Mirotic, a very good stretch 4 PF). Also, the Jazz has all of its future draft picks, and two extra 2nd round picks (Washington's 2021 2nd round pick and San Antonio's 2022 2nd round pick), which it could use to sweeten any deal.
In order to consummate a trade to reacquire Hayward, the Jazz would have to answer some difficult questions.
(1) How much would the Celtics require in a trade for Hayward and how much would the Jazz be willing to trade for Hayward? For example, would a combination of Favors, Ingles (or Burks), Udoh and the Jazz's 2018 first round draft pick for Hayward be a trade that both the Celtics and the Jazz would be willing to make?
(2) Would the acquisition of another star player in Hayward, to go along with Rudy Gobert and rising star Donovan Mitchell--forming a core of Mitchell, Hayward and Gobert--make the Jazz a better team than the current team with all its depth, but with not as many star players?
(3) Is Gordon Hayward enough of a star player (especially coming off of a serious injury to his dominant leg--the one he usually jumps off of) to justify paying his max salary going forward, and to justify the trade-off in depth the Jazz would have to give up to get him back (and would the fact that he just chose to leave the Jazz in free agency and apparently would rather play for the Celtics become a issue for either Hayward or the Jazz, if he was traded back to the Jazz)?
(4) Are there players already on the Jazz roster, other than Gobert and Mitchell, who could still be developed into NBA stars--such as Derrick Favors, Alec Burks, Dante Exum and/or Rodney Hood--but who would cost the Jazz much less than reacquiring Gordon Hayward?
The questions set forth above are interesting to think about--but are really not much different than the questions the Jazz was asking itself when the team made the decision to attempt to re-sign Hayward in free agency at a max salary this past off-season. If Hayward had re-signed with the team at a max salary, the Jazz would currently be facing hard questions about who to re-sign in the upcoming off season, with the contracts of Favors, Joe Johnson, Hood and Exum all expiring. However, a new twist on the situation is that with the Jazz starting to perform so well offensively (in the last two weeks), despite the apparent weaknesses of the current team, the Jazz now has to consider whether it would it be worth it to break up the good chemistry of the current team to bring back another star to the Jazz.
What do you think? Would it be worth it for the Jazz to attempt to reacquire Hayward, if they could get the Celtics to agree to a trade?