The Celtics bolstered their bench by adding knockdown shooters Aaron Nesmith and Payton Pritchard with first-round picks in Wednesday’s draft, but Gordon Hayward’s status remained the team’s most pressing issue.
As of Wednesday night, Hayward had yet to make a decision about his $34.2 million player option for next season. Hayward had initially faced a Tuesday deadline but he and the Celtics agreed to push that back to Thursday at 5 p.m.
On Wednesday night, Celtics coach Brad Stevens said he made it clear to Hayward that he is available if Hayward wants to discuss the decision.
“As we get closer to these deadlines and these big decisions and everything else, I say, ‘If you need me, let me know,’ ” Stevens said. “He knows us, he knows me, he knows this whole situation and he weighs that against his other options.
“That’s part of a player option, so that’s not too dissimilar to what we’ve been through in the past. So we’ll see again how that plays out.
“But those conversations, you spend so much time together that I think it’s appropriate, from my point of view, to make yourself available, if need be.”
Since Hayward did not opt in prior to the initial Tuesday deadline, the Celtics were unable to trade him during Wednesday’s draft. If they did orchestrate a deal, Hayward essentially would have had to agree to it, then opted in to allow it to happen. Free agency is set to begin on Friday.
On Monday, Celtics director of player personnel Austin Ainge said he did not think Hayward’s status would affect Boston’s approach to the draft.
Hayward could opt into the final season of his four-year deal, he could opt out and re-sign with the Celtics on a longer deal with a lower annual salary, he could decline his option and become a free agent, or he and the Celtics could work together on a trade.
A trade would allow Hayward to join a team that does not have the salary-cap space to sign him outright while also helping the Celtics recoup some assets in the process.
“I think that’s the beauty of the whole system; if a player has an option, it’s their option,” Stevens said. “It’s their choice. They get to do what they want. Team has an option, same thing. Unrestricted free agents get to choose what they want. We’ll see how it all plays itself out.”
Last season, Hayward averaged 17.5 points, 6.7 rebounds, and 4.1 assists, but he once again was slowed by injury. He suffered an ankle sprain in the first game of the playoffs against the 76ers and was sidelined until Game 3 of the conference finals.