NBA trade grades: Gordon Hayward gives rising Thunder some playoff experience

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The Oklahoma City Thunder have been one of the best stories in the NBA this season, as this super young team has been demolishing teams most nights and are on track to have a top-four seed in the highly competitive Western Conference. One of their only issues is that they don’t have much playoff experience on the roster. They’re changing that by acquiring Gordon Hayward from the Charlotte Hornets.

The Hornets are getting back Tre Mann and Dāvis Bertāns in the deal, according to league sources. With new ownership in place, Charlotte has already traded away Terry Rozier this season and is preparing to retool its roster around LaMelo Ball this summer. Let’s bust out the red ink and throw some grades down for this deal.

Thunder acquiring Gordon Hayward

Hayward is a really good addition to this roster, even if he doesn’t fix the Thunder’s size issue. He fits perfectly with what the Thunder have been hurting opponents with all season. He can shoot the ball, he can drive the ball, and he can pass the ball if you converge on him heading toward the basket. It’s what OKC has made its identity on offense. The Thunder drive the ball to the hole more than anybody, and Hayward — when healthy — does a great job of doing just that. He also has some playoff experience, which the Thunder are desperately lacking.

Hayward has issues with staying on the court. He currently has a calf injury and played in only 25 games this season. He hasn’t played in a game since Dec. 26, so there will be an adjustment period once he’s back. The Thunder are banking on him being at least a valuable rental for the rest of this season. I’m also not sure how confident they can be that he’ll stay healthy once he returns. Hayward has missed 138 games over the last four and a half seasons. Ever since that horrific leg injury he suffered with Boston at the beginning of the 2017-18 season, he’s struggled to avoid injuries.

The Thunder are confident his playoff experience from long ago will help boost their team poise. Hayward hasn’t played in the postseason since the bubble in 2020, when he appeared in only five playoff games. Injuries and being on the Hornets has prevented him from being back in the playoffs since then.

Grade: B

Hornets acquiring Tre Mann, Dāvis Bertāns

Hayward wasn’t able to boost the Hornets into being more competitive and reaching the postseason. That was the purpose of paying him over $100 million during his time with the franchise. It also signals that the Hornets have accepted their fate as a farm for dealing out veterans this season and the need to overhaul their roster around Ball and Brandon Miller heading into next season. Charlotte has been arguably the worst team in the NBA this season, just three wins ahead of the lowly Detroit Pistons and sporting the worst net rating (minus-11.8 points per 100 possessions) in the NBA, by far.

They aren’t getting a massive return on Hayward. Mann is a 6-foot-3 point guard who doesn’t really move the ball all that much. He’s much more of a gunner and a scorer than he is a lead guard. He didn’t do much in two and a half seasons in OKC, but he was the 18th pick of a pretty good 2021 draft class. Maybe there’s still plenty of potential for the 23-year-old to find his role as a backup guard who can stretch the floor.

Mann has barely played this season, clocking in just 13 games. The Thunder had two opposite seasons from him. He shot the ball well from deep as a rookie (36.0 percent), then his 3-point shooting cratered (31.5 percent) last season. He’s at 42.1 percent this season, but we’re talking about only 19 attempts. Mann should have opportunities to make a name for himself in this Hornets rotation the rest of the year.

Bertāns is a really good shooter from downtown, but he doesn’t do much else. It’ll be interesting to see if he sticks in Charlotte or ends up somewhere else by the end of the season.

Grade: C+

(Photo of Gordon Hayward: Nell Redmond / USA Today)

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