Gordon Hayward’s ankle exploded half a quarter into the Celtics opening night loss to the Cavaliers and it looks like he’ll miss the entire season. It was a brutal gut punch for a team coming into the season with high hopes, but if — and this is a big IF — he can be back to 100% by next Christmas, this may end up being somewhat of a blessing in disguise for the Celtics.
Here are three reasons:
1. They Weren’t Winning the Title This Year Anyway
This Celtics team had a chance to be very good with Hayward in the lineup, and as we saw with his injury, anything can happen, but realistically Boston was going to struggle to get by the Cavs in the Eastern Conference, never mind the Warriors in the West. Since a title is the only real goal, this injury doesn’t necessarily set them back.
2. The Young Players Will Get A Chance to Develop Quicker
This is the main silver lining from last night. We saw the consequences of it immediately, with Jaylen Brown scoring a career-high 25 points and Jayson Tatum contributing a double-double in his first career game. Without Hayward in the lineup, these two (who are already starting) will get a lot more opportunity to have the ball in their hands. As a result, their development will be sped up. This is also true, to a lesser degree, for Marcus Smart and Terry Rozier.
Brown already looks like he may be an All-Star by next year and Tatum looks every bit the future star. The Celtics don’t have any alpha-dogs in their front court and there are only so many shots Kyrie Irving can take. Both these guys will have a chance to become impact players this season, and when Hayward rejoins them next year, the team will be better off because of it. In fact, if the Lakers end up with a bad record, the Celtics could have another top three pick next year and potentially add someone like Michael Porter Jr. to the mix as well as a healthy Hayward.
3. This May Extend Hayward’s Prime
If this is a clean break that heals properly, Hayward will basically get a year to rest his legs from wear and tear, meaning that his prime could be extended for another year on the back end. This is good news for a team that is planning on hitting their stride 2-3 years from now when all the young players are developed, Kyrie is in his absolute prime, and (possibly) Golden State has regressed somewhat.
Gordon Hayward’s ankle is badly broken, but his long-term potential remains intact…