Gordon Hayward sign-and-trade to Charlotte official; Hornets waive Batum

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The Charlotte Hornets aggressive overpay to land Gordon Hayward and push them back into playoff contention is complete.

As expected, Hayward is headed down the Eastern seaboard as the Hornets and Celtics officially announced a sign-and-trade of Gordon on Sunday.

β€œWe are thrilled to welcome Gordon and his family to the Hornets organization and Charlotte,” said Charlotte GM Mitch Kupchak in a statement. β€œGordon is an NBA All-Star, a proven scorer and playmaker and a tough competitor that will fit well into the needs of our team. We believe that his basketball talent, NBA experience and veteran leadership will make a positive impact on our young, talented team as it continues to develop.”

This is not the sign-and-trade originally discussed, but the Celtics are sending Hayward plus their 2023 and 2024 second-round picks to Charlotte, unprotected (Boston has another 2023 second-round pick). The conditional pick coming back to Boston might never convey.

What Boston really gets out of the sign-and-trade is a trade exception β€” $28.5 million, the largest in NBA history. It means the Celtics can trade for a player making that much or less and not have to send any players or picks back to the other team (and Boston can go over the cap and tax to bring in that player). It puts Boston in the mix should β€” or, really, when β€” a star player becomes available by trade either during this season or next offseason (but it is less than Bradley Beal makes, so don’t go there).

Charlotte, to make room for the sign-and-trade, had to waive and stretch Nicolas Batum and his $27.1 million contract.

That means for the next three years, the Hornets will have $9 million in dead money on their books they cannot trade. As the team starts to rebuild around rookie LaMelo Ball, that money will be an anchor on some moves, and is just part of the high price the Hornets have paid to land Hayward.

The Clippers are reportedly at the front of the line to sign Batum to a minimum contract as bench depth.

Hayward now has a four-year, $120 million contract with Charlotte β€” a number that instantly had people around the league comparing it to the worst contracts available. Charlotte is betting that Hayward will show more than the flashes he did last season of returning to the All-Star level player he was before his horrific leg injury. Last season, Hayward averaged 17.5 points a game night for Boston and played well during the regular season, but not at an All-Star level, and not at a $30 million a year level. In the playoffs, his points per game (10.8 points) and efficiency fell off.

Charlotte, with Hayward, can play rookie LaMelo Ball off the ball more and not have him as the primary shot creator all the time, a check against a player with a penchant for taking bad shots and making questionable decisions with the rock.

Charlotte will be interesting to watch with Ball and Hayward, but making the playoffs β€” clearly the franchise’s goal with this trade β€” will still be difficult. The Hornets would need to beat out at least one of Milwaukee, Boston, Philadelphia, Brooklyn, Miami, Indiana, Toronto, and a much-improved Atlanta squad. Washington and Chicago join Charlotte in dreams of jumping into the top eight.