K.C. Johnson: Indications Right Now Are Celtics Will Chase Gordon Hayward In Free Agency, Not Pursue Jimmy Butler

(CBS) Grounded in reality or not, it’s in vogue to fire up the Jimmy Butler-Celtics trade speculation every time a substantial NBA event or development occurs pertaining to Boston or Chicago.

On Monday, the Celtics were front and center regarding the league’s biggest storyline, as their trade of the No. 1 pick to the 76ers became official. Boston acquired the No. 3 overall pick in this Thursday’s draft and also a future first-rounder, while Philadelphia moved up to use the top pick on Washington point guard Markelle Fultz.

As that pertains to the Bulls, some have speculated that Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge wasn’t done maneuvering and instead trying to strengthen his team’s position to make a run at Butler. That doesn’t currently appear to be the case though, the Tribune’s K.C. Johnson reported Sunday night and reiterated in an interview on the Spiegel and Parkins Show on 670 The Score on Monday.

“Jimmy, it’s almost become a reflex now,” Johnson said. “Every time the Celtics get more assets — because the teams have talked, once substantively, that was last June, and then once less so in February — that (storyline starts up that) they’re coming for him. But everybody I’ve talked to right now says that Ainge is letting people know that he’s using the pick or at least giving the impression that he’s using the pick and they’re going to pursue Gordon Hayward in free agency. All you can do is go by what people tell you.”

An All-Star who averaged 21.9 points per game last season, Hayward will become an unrestricted free agent on July 1. The Jazz are almost certainly going to make him a maximum offer to try to retain him, while the Celtics and Heat also are expected to be suitors. From one perspective, it would make more sense for Celtics to first try to lure Hayward with a long-term big-money contract the first week of July rather than trade established NBA talent and assets this week for Butler, who they’d have control of for two years before he can hit free agency again.

Listen to Johnson’s full interview below, as he hits on many other Bulls topics as well.

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