While the team had the means to create enough cap room for Hayward, the Hornets were surprised that he opted out of his contract with Boston, let alone wanted to go to Charlotte. Hayward signed a four-year, $120MM contract and officially came to Charlotte via a sign-and-trade.
“I didn’t think he would opt out of that and want to leave Boston,” Kupchak said. “That doesn’t happen very often so when that was happening, even at the very end, even though we tried and we did everything we could do — and it was a good feeling that he was going to come to Charlotte — there was a big part of me that said, ‘This just doesn’t happen very often, that a player of this caliber will go to a small market.’ So I wasn’t really sure until we got his signature that he was going to come… That just kind of happened.”
A similar scenario unfolded a year earlier when the Hornets agreed with Terry Rozier on a three-year, $58MM contract and worked out a sign-and-trade with the Celtics after Kemba Walker chose Boston in free agency.
Kupchak has taken heat for overpaying for Hayward and Rozier, but he shrugs it off.
“It’s kind of hard to shake me up, you know? There might have been some criticism; I didn’t follow it that closely at the time,” Kupchak said. “But you’ve got to weigh everything: the draft, free-agent signings, trades. You really have to wait four or five years to look back on it and that’s when you know really whether you made a mistake or you didn’t make a mistake.”
Hayward was enjoying an All-Star level season (19.6 PPG, 5.9 RPG and 4.1 APG) before suffering a foot injury in early April. Rozier is averaging 20.3 PPG, 4.2 RPG and 4.1 APG this season.