The newly minted Minnesota Timberwolves’ Jimmy Butler threatens Gordon Hayward’s spot on the Western Conference All-Star team. The same scenario goes for the trade which netted Oklahoma City Thunder Paul George from the Indiana Pacers. Paul Millsap signing a contract with the Denver Nuggets adds another potential All-Star replacement for Hayward. On the other coast, the NBA’s Eastern Conference now has three vacant All-Star spots for a forward, waiting to be filled.
Second, the Wolves, Thunder and Nuggets, along with the Portland Trail Blazers, are in same Northwest Division as the Utah Jazz. While only the Thunder posed a serious threat for the top spot in the division last season, three teams have upgraded their rosters with All-Stars this summer, and present imminent challenges for the division crown the Jazz held last season. Another minus arises because the Jazz play the most games during the season against teams within their own division. The wins for Utah will come harder next season.
The loss of 3 All-Stars in the East makes Hayward’s chances for a deep playoff run so much easier in the Eastern Conference. What seemed like a long shot a month ago, now a run to the Eastern Conference Finals seems doable for Miami. Besides the Miami Heat have Hassan Whiteside to meet people at the rim.
The easier path for a berth on a 2017-18 All-Star team for Hayward lies in the East, with its three vacant spots left, after the departures of Butler, George and Millsap. The Washington Post, in its article “From the penthouse to the outhouse: A guide to the tiers of NBA free agency,” rates Miami in its top tier (“Paradise City”) of free agent destinations joining the Warriors, Cavs, Spurs, Lakers and Rockets. Boston didn’t make the cut.
That said, whether he chooses the Heat or Boston Celtics, depends on his personal priorities. Having a home in Southern California indicates he prefers a warmer climate for himself and his family. The tax situation doesn’t seem to bother him, since California’s taxes aren’t low by any means.
Taking into account age catching up to Carmelo Anthony, LeBron James, Kevin Love and Giannis Antetokounmpo are about the only forwards, from last year’s squad, as locks for the Eastern squad this coming season. If one of Gordon Hayward’s priorities is for a second All-Star selection, heading east remains his best choice.
The answer on Hayward’s choice of a team for next season may come faster than expected. For Heats fans, Erik Spoelstra and Pat Riley coming back home with signed contract(s), from either Dion Waiters or Gordon Hayward, or both, will be a monumental relief from the uncertainty of the process. A ride to Hayward’s house in Rancho Santa Fe, California, from Los Angles, is just a couple of hours away.