The rumblings around Boston Celtics forward Al Horford have taken a few unique twists and turns in the days and weeks prior to free agency. While no verbal agreements can be put in place until Sunday, June 30 at 6 p.m. ET, Horford remains a name to watch.
Horford chose to decline his $30.1 million option, as ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reported, and the original belief was that he may re-sign with the Celtics. Shortly after, there were rumblings that a deal worth more than $100 million over four years for the 33-year-old big man was waiting in free agency, as Marc Stein of the New York Times revealed.
As far as who those teams are, that remains a question mark. But the early chatter brought three teams in the Dallas Mavericks, Los Angeles Lakers and Clippers as options, with The Ringer’s Kevin O’Connor pointing to the Mavericks as early favorites.
Obviously, anything can happen in free agency and there’s been no confirmation that any of those teams will make a serious run at Horford. But one team worth keeping an eye on could be the Philadelphia 76ers, and they may actually hit a home run by signing the former Celtics big man, assuming a few other things don’t pan out.
The biggest would have to be the Sixers not re-signing Tobias Harris either by choice or because he heads elsewhere in free agency. If that happens, here’s a look at why Horford is the ideal addition to the roster.
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Teaming up With Joel Embiid Makes Life Easier on Sixers Center
There’s no question that Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons are the two centerpieces for the Sixers. Jimmy Butler helps to create Philly’s own “big three” while providing an added scoring ability and someone who can close out games. The question around the Sixers is whether Butler and/or Harris will return to the team, but if they’re able to keep the former and opt not to give Harris a max contract, or he leaves, attention should shift.
Horford has caused headaches for Embiid over the years, and many believe that he’s one of the only big men in the NBA truly capable of shutting down the young All-Star at times. While the 25-year-old has won a few recent battles with Horford, putting them on the same team would be huge for Philly’s outlook in the Eastern Conference.
Most importantly, it makes Embiid’s life even easier while providing him, Simmons and potentially Butler with another talented teammate.
Non-Max Contract May Open Things up in Free Agency
According to Spotrac, the Sixers currently are projected to hold north of $58.868 million in practical salary cap space. If Butler receives a max contract worth five years and roughly $190 million, money would get tight quickly for the team. While the Sixers are in a position to potentially make a run at offering Harris a huge contract, it appears Horford would come at a lower cost.
If the team was able to free up the cash to offer Harris something close to a max contract but could add Horford at a lower price tag, it may allow them to pick up a few pieces to put around the core. While that’s important, it could also set up a situation where the Sixers have a chance to try and convince JJ Redick to re-sign on a team-friendly deal.
Attempting to bring back Butler, Harris and Redick may be nearly impossible. But if Horford’s contract is more cost-effective to the Sixers than Harris, it may open the door to keep Redick, who’s coming off two of the best years of his career in town.
Helping Pick Apart the Boston Celtics
The Sixers and Celtics may or may not have a rivalry. It’s up for debate, but as of now, Boston has held a decent advantage over their opponent in terms of recent success. With the expectation that Kyrie Irving is leaving the Celtics and the likelihood of Horford doing the same on the table, the Sixers’ outlook in the East improves dramatically.
But if Philadelphia is able to add Horford to their core and put him in place to be a piece that pushes the Sixers over the top, sending the Celtics a step or two backwards is an added bonus. Obviously, I don’t think the Sixers would attempt to sign Horford solely as a way to stick it to the Celtics, but it’s a huge benefit to the team both because of what he’d add and what Boston would lose.