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#pounditWednesday, July 24, 2024

Gordon Hayward linked to Thunder rival in free agency

Gordon Hayward ready to shoot

Photo: Dec 18, 2016; Memphis, TN, USA; Utah Jazz forward Gordon Hayward (20) warms up before the game against the Memphis Grizzlies at FedExForum. Mandatory Credit: Justin Ford-USA TODAY Sports

Gordon Hayward may be getting his revenge this offseason.

In a lengthy column this week, Denver Nuggets beat writer Harrison Wind mentioned the former All-Star Hayward as a potential option for the team in free agency. Wind noted that some people on the Nuggets are known “fans” of Hayward.

The 34-year-old Hayward went from the Charlotte Hornets to the Oklahoma City Thunder in a February trade this year. But he ended up playing really sparingly for the young Thunder and openly vented his frustrations after OKC got eliminated in the second round. Even Hayward’s wife expressed displeasure with Thunder GM Sam Presti over the situation.

A move to the Nuggets, a big rival of the Thunder in the Northwest Division, would make a ton of sense for Hayward. He is a big wing at 6-foot-7 who still has the capability to run a second-unit offense (having averaged 14.5 points and 4.6 assists per game for the Hornets this season before getting traded). That is a skillset that the Nuggets very badly need off their bench. Reggie Jackson’s play fell off significantly in the postseason, Christian Braun is a slightly smaller wing who more of a true 3-and-D role player, and 21-year-old Peyton Watson still may not be ready for Broadway just yet.

With reigning MVP Nikola Jokic turning 30 next season and co-star Jamal Murray not too far behind (he will be 28 next year), the Nuggets need to maximize their title window right now. The versatility of a Hayward-like piece could be really valuable and may even provide Denver with a viable Plan B if this key starter of theirs leaves in free agency this summer.

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