Al Horford has emerged as an interesting free agency target for multiple teams, including the Los Angeles Lakers, Los Angeles Clippers, Houston Rockets, New York Knicks, Sacramento Kings, Philadelphia 76ers and the Atlanta Hawks.
Horford, 33, is coming off another productive year with the Boston Celtics where he helped lead the somewhat dysfunctional team to 49-33 regular season record, before ultimately being bounced in the second round of the playoffs by the Milwaukee Bucks.
Although the finish was a disappointing one for many Celtics fans given the lofty expectations that the prior year’s postseason run had produced, most attributed the team’s shortcomings to poor chemistry and Kyrie Irving, rather than anything Horford could have done.
Horford ended the regular season with averages of 13.6 points and 6.7 rebounds, marks just slightly off from his career averages of 14.1 points and 8.4 rebounds. In the postseason, his totals ticked up to 13.9 points per game and 9.0 rebounds per game.
Beyond just the statistics, Horford was known for being a true leader on a very young Boston squad who could be counted on to perform in the tough moments. Moreover, his strong defense was huge all throughout the year – particularly in match-ups against Joel Embiid of the Sixers.
Most expected Horford to re-sign with the Celtics this summer, however, in a fairly surprising move, his people have indicated that he has a larger offer on the table than the one Boston will offer him when free agency officially kicks off.
As soon as the Finals ended, word leaked out that Horford opted out of his $30.1 million player option to explore free agency. Danny Ainge reportedly offered him a 4-year deal that Boston deemed befitting a player of his age and stature, but Horford passed.
Multiple sources have indicated that he is looked for a deal that will pay him something in the $100 to $115 million range, which is obviously a lot more than most expected a slowing big — who will be 37 by the time a 4-year contract ends — would receive.
Among the teams linked to Horford now, beyond the Celtics who just be throwing a smoke screen out there, are the Lakers, Clippers, Rockets, Knicks, Kings, Sixers and Hawks.
The Lakers recently freed up a maximum slot after shipping off a bunch of spare parts to the Washington Wizards. Between that and Anthony Davis signaling he will waive his kicker in LA’s trade with the New Orleans Pelics, Rob Pelinka and Co. now have the flexibility to bring in Horford. Will they want him? That is up for debate. He would provide solid relief for Anthony Davis in the middle, no doubt, but the Lakers presently have bigger concerns.
Similarly, the Clippers have the free agent space available for someone like Horford, but they are likely targeting a No. 1 option like Kawhi Leonard – not a secondary piece like Horford. If they don’t end up getting anyone who be the top option on their squad this summer, they are more likely to wait and see what happens than waste money on Horford.
The Knicks have a max slot and seem eager to spend it, but they, like the Clippers, are looking for someone to be a No. 1 option. When they were still in the running for Kevin Durant, a pairing like him and Horford would have made sense. However, now that Durant is likely to either sign with the Nets or Golden State Warriors, NY is likely out of the Horford sweepstakes.
Over the past few days, the Kings have emerged as a possible suitor. Brian Windhorst and Ramona Shelburne have indicated that “…Kings are interested in adding a center this offseason, and there’s space for them to do it even with re-signing Harrison Barnes. It would require them to move on from Willie Cauley-Stein, who wants that anyway, as his agent has asked the Kings to let him go.”
The Sixers are another potential landing spot for Horford, as he has been known to give them fits – particularly with his play against Embiid. If you cannot beat the man, why not pay him $100 million to stop torturing you?
Finally, the Hawks are gearing up to make a push in the weakened Eastern Conference behind the talent of their young superstars, and a calming veteran presence like Horford may be exactly what they need to take that next step.
Where will Horford ultimately end up? We will find out for sure in about a week’s time.
NBA free agency will officially commence this coming week on Monday, July, 1. If Horford already has a deal lined up, as many assume he does, it likely will not take long for us to solve the mystery of who peeled him away from the Celtics.