Boston Celtics forward Gordon Hayward has declined his $34.2 million player option for the 2020-21 season to become an unrestricted free agent, The Athletic's Shams Charania reports.
Celtics' Gordon Hayward has opted out of his $34M deal for the 2020-21 season and will become a free agent, sources tell @TheAthleticNBA @Stadium.- Shams Charania (@ShamsCharania) November 19, 2020
Hayward's deadline for a decision on his player option was originally scheduled for 5:00 p.m. Eastern Time on Tuesday, Nov. 17, but the Celtics and their star forward mutually agreed to push that deadline back two days until Thursday, Nov. 18, allowing the 2020 NBA Draft to play out.
As the new deadline came around, it's clear the two sides were not able to see eye-to-eye, with Hayward opting out of his contract to test the waters of a free agency market where he'll be a top priority for teams with cap space.
NBA.com's Scott Rafferty ranks Hayward as the seventh-best available player in free agency, but with players like Anthony Davis and Brandon Ingram expected to return to their current teams and DeMar DeRozan reportedly picking up his player option with the San Antonio Spurs, Hayward's name climbs up to the top-five available free agents.
This doesn't mean Hayward can't or won't re-sign with Boston once the clock strikes 6:00 p.m. ET when free agency starts on Friday, Nov. 19 - he could still sign a longer-term deal or be the key piece in a sign-and-trade deal for the Celtics - but the ball is in his court now more than ever.
Hayward is coming off of a solid, yet injury-riddled season where he averaged 17.5 points, 6.7 rebounds and 4.1 assists per game.
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