While Oklahoma City Thunder guard Kevin Durant represents the biggest prize on the NBA Free Agent market (while he has opted out, few expect LeBron James to even entertain the idea of leaving Cleveland), power forward Al Horford was another player viewed as a potential difference maker when free agency opened. Would Horford remain in Atlanta, where he’s played his entire career to date, with the Hawks adding former Rockets center and Atlanta native Dwight Howard to the franchise?
Or would Horford decide to move on, with teams such as Boston, Oklahoma City and Washington looking to sign him? Saturday evening the answer was learned, as it was first reported by The Vertical that Horford has agreed to a 4-year, $113 million deal with the Boston Celtics. Shortly after Adrian Wojnarowski’s report that the Celtics had been successful in their pursuit of Horford, the four-time NBA All-Star confirmed the news via his Twitter account.
The contract represents the maximum that the Celtics can pay Horford under the collective bargaining agreement, and it brings to an end a free agency that didn’t lack for twists and turns.
With Atlanta coming to an agreement with Howard and Paul Millsap under contract for another season, the feeling at the time was that there was no room for Horford. Boston and Washington gave compelling presentations to the 6-foot-10 Florida product, and Oklahoma City attempted to work its way into the mix as well, but nothing was wrapped up before Atlanta looked to get back into the mix. Under the collective bargaining agreement Atlanta was in position to offer a fifth year, which opened the door to Horford re-signing with the Hawks.
But the two sides were $6 million apart according to The Vertical, meaning that Boston still had a chance at landing Horford. And sure enough Danny Ainge and company got the deal done, giving them a talented player who can help this group strengthen its standing within the Eastern Conference.
How Horford Can Help The Celtics
While the hiring of Brad Stevens has worked out in his two seasons at the helm, the Celtics haven’t won a playoff series in those two years.
A competitive team, Boston needed an upgrade in the “star” department if they’re to close the gap on the likes of Cleveland, Toronto and even Atlanta, and the acquisition of Horford helps in that regard. Horford averaged 15.2 points, 7.3 rebounds and 3.2 assists per game last season, shooting 50.5 percent from the field. He has the ability to step outside and hit perimeter shots, either by flashing into the high post or in pick and pop situations, and he’s also good with his back to the basket as well.
Adding Horford should help the Celtics offensively, especially when it comes to how guards such as Isaiah Thomas operate in ball screen situations. He’s also a solid passer, which Boston can take advantage of in a variety of ways including running their guards off screens while Horford has the ball in his hands. Boston will still need to address its perimeter shooting situation ahead of next season, but adding Horford is a much-needed boost for a franchise that didn’t have the best luck in recent years when it came to landing high-level free agents.
Horford Will Reportedly Make More Than $26 Million Next Season
After playing his first four seasons on a rookie deal worth $17.53 million, Horford agreed to a five-year, $60 million extension with the Hawks in July 2011. That worked out to a cap hit of $12 million per season for Atlanta to absorb, which is less than half of what Horford will get paid per season in Boston.
According to Spotrac Horford is due to make and estimated $26,463,700 during the 2016-17 season in Boston, and that figure will increase in each year of the deal. Horford’s salary in 2017-18 will be a base salary of $27,654,567, $$28,845,433 in 2018-19 and $30,036,300 in 2019-20. Horford will then be an unrestricted free agent at the end of the 2019-20 campaign.
Boston may not be done either, as they met with Kevin Durant Saturday in The Hamptons. Interestingly enough Durant’s status was a big reason why Oklahoma City couldn’t find much traction in the Horford sweepstakes, as the undecided statuses of Durant and Russell Westbrook (he’ll be a free agent next summer) being a negative.