Gordon Hayward: Going from Western Conference to Eastern Conference ‘probably the smarter thing’

AP Photo/Rick Bowmer
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The top three and 10 of the top 16 teams in our power rankings are in the Western Conference.

Four All-Stars changed conferences this offseason. Jimmy Butler, Paul George and Paul Millsap all went East to West. (Carmelo Anthony could follow.)

Gordon Hayward – who left the Jazz for the Celtics – went the other way.

Hayward on The Woj Pod:

When we’re going through this process, and you keep seeing some of the big-name guys, and it’s like the West is loading up more and more and more. It’s not like I’m going to go East just so I don’t have to play them. Because you don’t want to run from competition at all. That’s not how I am.

But there is a sense that it’s probably the smarter thing, as far as you’re not going to have to battle it out with all these teams just to make it to the second round, make it to the third, giving yourself a better chance against a Golden State.

So, it definitely crosses your mind. Hundred percent.

The All-Star thing, it’s going to be hard no matter what division you’re in, but certainly with the amount of stars that are in the Western Conference now, especially at the forward position, too. It’s loaded, and you better have a really good first half of the season if you want to get in. And a lot of that, to me, always comes down to how your team does. If your team is winning, then it’s going to be a lot easier for you.

So, like I said, that for sure crosses your mind.

I don’t think Hayward wanted to run from competition, and he probably didn’t view it that way.

But it’s also what he did.

He’ll have an easier time making the All-Star game in the East. Six to eight Eastern Conference frontcourt players will make it. Other candidates: LeBron James, Giannis Antetokounmpo, Joel Embiid, Kristaps Porzingis, Hassan Whiteside, Andre Drummond, Al Horford, Anthony and…? Hayward should crack through.

Boston will also have an easier path for playoff advancement. The Cavaliers, Wizards and Raptors are also formidable, but the Celtics made the conference finals without Hayward last year. They’ll be even better with him.

It’s hard to argue with Hayward’s contention that signing in the East is the smarter thing. The sooner other stars agree with him, the soon the conference imbalance will be fixed.