Gordon Hayward. Marvin Bagley. Charlotte Hornets. Sacramento Kings. 4 very short sentences that don’t have much in common at first glance. But if we take a closer look we see that these two may be having a similar, and quite unpleasant experience.
Hayward, after being a prize free agent signing by the Boston Celtics in 2017, was set up to be the 2nd option behind PG Kyrie Irving on a revamped roster that was destined for a Championship run. Five minutes into his first game as a Celtics, he broke his foot landing on a failed alley-oop attempt and was out for the rest of the season. By the time he came back, Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum had moved up in the pecking order–plus Hayward had to ease back into form. At the start of the 2019 season, Hayward finally was playing like his old self and with Kemba Walker in the fold, Kyrie and Al Horford out, and Tatum and Brown continuing to improve. Fast forward a few months Hayward suffers a broken hand, missing six weeks and derailing any momentum he had, and then sprained his ankle in the 1st round of the playoffs versus Philadelphia. Coming back from each those injuries, he suddenly became fourth or fifth option–even behind Marcus Smart in many games, whose offensive production had improved post-World Championships.
Similarly, Bagley has had an injury-riddled first 2 years in the league, only having played 75 games, and never quite been able to stay on the court long enough to get into a rhythm on what was looked like an up-an-coming Sacramento Kings squad along with De’Aaron Fox and Buddy Hield. In Bagley’s rookie year he started 65 games and was normally 2nd option on offense behind Hield. But fast forward two years and a lot of underachieving, roster churn in typical Kings fashion, and the emergence of Fox offensively–plus lucking into Tyrese Haliburton in the draft, and Bagley is now 5th option all of a sudden, playing only about 25 minutes a game and little to none in crunch time. Needless to say he is quite displeased. And so is his father.
What is the lesson to be learned from these parallel stories of highly skilled players who suffered from so many injuries and were unable to fulfill the lofty expectations that their franchises and fans had for them: *Sometimes a change of scenery is necessary for all*. Exhibit A: Hayward who signed a huge deal with the Charlotte Hornets this offseason, even with the Celtics offering to pick up his player option for $34.1 million in 2020-2021, immediately went back to looking like Gordon Hayward of old, back as 1st option on a young Hornets squad desperately needing leadership and playmaking, and in the first 12 games is averaging 22/5/4. And his usage rate is back up to where it was when he left Utah (see usage splits below from NBA.com).
So what will the Kings do? Have they learned this lesson from having watched it with Hayward and move Bagley while he still has some value? Will they stubbornly keep him and hope he accepts his role knowing the backlash they will receive if he is jettisoned after having chosen him over Hall-of-Famer Luka Doncic? Will teams want to trade for Bagley with the baggage he may bring in addition to knowing his rookie deal will be up soon?
Bagley has a lot of talent and may just need a change of scenery to reemerge as a high quality starter in the league, and teams like Charlotte, Washington, Dallas, San Antonio and Oklahoma City all look like candidates who have the trade capital and incentive to make a deal for the young PF/C.
What trade would you like to see? Here’s a couple I liked via TradeNBA: