Cavaliers: Could Oklahoma City veteran be an offseason steal for Cleveland?

As the Cavaliers look for a deeper playoff push in the 2024 season, a veteran and reliable talent may heighten the team's ceiling. Should they target former all-star forward Gordon Hayward?
Gordon Hayward, CLE
Gordon Hayward, CLE / Andy Lyons/GettyImages

The Cleveland Cavaliers were knocked out of the 2023-24 NBA Playoffs in the semifinal round on the Eastern Conference side.

Throughout the entirety of the playoffs, a consistent issue continued to arise from The Land: depth and leadership. Without star Cavalier Donovan Mitchell or Jarrett Allen on the court, the team missed a lot in the depth department, alongside a prominent leader on the court at all times.

Should Cleveland make a move for former all-star forward Gordon Hayward?

That's where the offseason makes its way into the conversation. If Mitchell is to extend his contract further with the Cavaliers, they must make strong acquisitions in free agency.

Last offseason, the Cavaliers went out and addressed the three-point shooting inconsistencies the team had prior. They were able to lock down guard Max Strus and forward Georges Niang, both of which helped drastically throughout this past season.

Fortunately, both are still on contract for the 2024-25 season.

The only individuals the team is set to lose this offseason are forwards Marcus Morris Sr., Tristan Thompson, Isaiah Mobley, Pete Nance and wing Emoni Bates - just five rotational, or reserve, players. With most of the lineup on contract next season, Cleveland can use free agency to add a complementary rotational player to the team rather than searching for a major change.

Tristan Thompson, CLE
Tristan Thompson, CLE / Jason Miller/GettyImages

However, Morris and Thompson both commanded minutes, specifically in the back half of the season and throughout the playoffs. In need of replacing those two and getting higher-level play, the Cavaliers should explore the possibility of signing Oklahoma City Thunder forward Gordon Hayward.

Hayward joined the Thunder after a deadline trade from the Charlotte Hornets in the final year of his contract. In the 2024 season, Hayward averaged roughly 10 points per game, four rebounds and three assists throughout his time with the Charlotte Hornets and Oklahoma City Thunder. His shooting percentages were also consistent, posting 46 percent from the field and 41 percent from deep.

However, with the Hornets, he averaged 31 minutes per game, but with the Thunder, it was a measly 17 per game. Throughout the Thunders' playoff series against the Dallas Mavericks, he played under 10 minutes per game.

For Hayward, that level of playtime was unacceptable.

“I feel like as a player I have a lot to offer,” Hayward said during his end-of-season press conference. “I just wasn't given much of an opportunity to do that, and I thought I was going to get that opportunity.”

Thunder general manager Sam Presti took the blame for the mixed fit with Hayward after the veteran's disappointed comments on his role with OKC. Now, Hayward is looking for a new place to call home, and Cleveland can give him that opportunity he desires.

He would instantly propel the team's depth with leadership and experience having been with multiple teams during his career. He would also be able to mesh well in the Cavaliers' system which is going to be led by a new head coach next season.

Since his years with the Utah Jazz, Hayward's impact on the league has diminished, but at his best, he has still shown high upside as a veteran leader and solid forward option. While most contending teams need veteran talent but lack any financial flexibility, the Cavaliers will most likely have some portion of the non-taxpayer Mid-Level Exception to offer free agents. Though Hayward's value is lower than years prior, the Cavs could be the right organization to allow him to recoup his reputation and impact winning without such a heavy load that he risks falling back into his injury struggles.

When the returning players are learning the new offensive and defensive schemes, Hayward will be at the same pace as them. This will also give way to more resting opportunities for Mitchell to get rest, and not lose a facilitator-like role when Hayward is on the court. With above-average and reliable shooting, and a calm leader demeanor, this signing for the Cavaliers makes sense on all fronts.

Will and should Gordon Hayward soon call Cleveland home?

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