The Boston Celtics are one of the top contenders in the Easter Conference ahead of the NBA’s restart later this month, but it appears like they’ll lose an important player amid their title run. Gordon Hayward told the media on Friday that he plans to leave the NBA’s Orlando playoff bubble sometime in September to be with his wife for the birth of his fourth child.
The Eastern Conference semifinals and are both scheduled to take place in September, so Hayward’s absence could affect his team’s success against a tough opponent significantly. While players who leave the bubble with permission could only have to quarantine for as little as few as four days, that’s enough time to swing a series. Let’s go over how this could affect Boston’s title odds.
Boston is third in the Eastern Conference standings and three games back from the second-seeded Toronto Raptors. Its odds to win the conference are even with Toronto at +700, and its title odds (+1700) rank fifth among all NBA teams. If the Celtics remain where they are now in the standings, they could have to get by a first-round series against the Philadelphia 76ers ahead of matchups with the Raptors and Milwaukee Bucks to reach the NBA Finals.
All three of these teams have versatile point forwards that can take over games. One of the Celtics’ strengths is having a bevy of hybrid wings to throw at the likes of players like Ben Simmons, Pascal Siakam, and Giannis Antetokounmpo. Without Hayward, there will be that much more pressure on Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown. Now go over the fantasy implications of Hayward’s plan.
Fantasy basketball impact
Hayward has been operating as a power forward for the Celtics this season and is averaging 17.3 points, 6.5 rebounds, and 4.1 assists per game while shooting 39.2 percent from beyond the arc. While that production won’t be replaced by a single player, a few bench options could see a boost in stats while he’s out.
Tatum will likely spend more time at power forward than usual while Hayward is gone, but players like Grant Williams and Robert Williams should also get opportunities to earn more prominent roles. Grant is the more obvious choice, as he’s had a healthy year and made five starts this season. His abilities as a screener and tenacity on defense could earn him more time, but his ceiling isn’t quite as high as Robert’s. Robert’s per 36 averages of 10.9 points, 12.0 rebound, 3.1 blocks, and 2.2 steals through 23 games are promising. The Celtics have sought out more consistent post presence all year, and he could provide an abundance of that if he’s in shape.