Al Horford surprised the NBA this offseason when he decided to part ways with the Boston Celtics and opt instead to hit the market as an unrestricted free agent with his eyes on a big payday.
While the departure of Kyrie Irving was all but expected after a tumultuous season, Horford was widely expected to stick around. He did not exercise the $30.1 million option on his contract, but it was still thought that he and the Celtics would work toward something to keep him in Boston long-term. That was not the case, as the sides could not agree on annual salary and the draw of one last big-money deal for the 33-year-old was too good to pass up.
“From talking to his people, it never was a toxic relationship,” Sports Illustrated’s Chris Mannix said on WEEI. “It never was Al Horford doesn’t want to be in Boston — Al Horford wants to get paid, and Al Horford is 33 years old, and he knows that this summer has a very summer of 2016-type feel to it where when the dust settles on Durant and Kawhi and some of these top-tier players, there’s going to be money out there.”
Horford might not draw the same excitement of a Kevin Durant or Kawhi Leonard, but the veteran will be highly sought after for his leadership and defensive prowess. The five-time All-Star has averaged 14.1 points, 8.4 rebounds, 3.2 assists and 1.2 blocks per game over his dozen years in the NBA.
Multiple teams are in the running for Horford, but here are three sleepers who could sneak up and land the former Celtic.
New Orleans Pelicans Looking at Adding Al Horford
Multiple reports have emerged that New Orleans was targeting Horford to add to a young, talented core that already includes No. 1 overall pick Zion Williamson, Lonzo Ball and Brandon Ingram.
The team is reportedly worried it would be outbid for the big man, but fans in New Orleans got a beacon of hope when Horford followed Zion Williamson and Jrue Holiday on Instagram.
Sacramento Kings have Al Horford in Their Sights
The Sacramento Bee confirmed that the Kings have interest in adding Horford to play alongside young guns De’Aaron Fox, Buddy Hield and Marvin Bagley III.
Sacramento is in need of a big man presence after Willie Cauley-Stein told the team he wanted to move on to another team. However, in an interesting move, the Kings reportedly tendered a $6.3 million qualifying offer to WCS on Friday anyway, making him a restricted free agent.
The Kings are also expected to offer veteran guard Harrison Barnes a contract worth $88 million over four years.
Indiana Pacers a Darkhorse to Land Al Horford
The Dallas Mavericks were reported by Bleacher Report’s Ric Bucher to be among the teams that showed interest in signing Horford to a lucrative deal, which played a factor in pulling him away from Boston.
Could this open the door for a team like the Indiana Pacers to pounce on the veteran?
ESPN’s Jackie MacMullan reported that the Pacers and Lakers are possible landing spots for Horford. Indiana hasn’t been mentioned to be in the running for any of the big names, and the opportunity would allow Horford to team up with All-Star guard Victor Oladipo and mentor talented young big men Myles Turner and Domantas Sabonis.