Veteran Projects to Be Only Potential Problem With Celtics Next Season

Marcus Smart and Al Horford of the Boston Celtics.

Getty Marcus Smart and Al Horford of the Boston Celtics.

After making the NBA Finals this past season, the Boston Celtics are dead set on improving next year. Brad Stevens acted quickly this offseason in an attempt to improve the roster, adding Danilo Gallinari in free agency and trading five players for Malcolm Brogdon.

Boston now has some of the best depth in the league backing up their stars. Heading into the offseason, the two biggest questions on the roster were a lack of playmaking and poor shooting. Brogdon and Gallinari fix those issues, leaving the Celtics with a fairly complete roster.

So, if Boston’s depth is all set, what could possibly go wrong for them next year? Obviously, things happen throughout the course of the season that will be impossible to predict, but according to Jay King of The Athletic, the one factor that could hurt Boston involves big man Al Horford and his potential decline.

“While pondering what could go wrong for the Celtics, I keep coming back to Al Horford as one of the team’s potential variables,” King wrote in an article for The Athletic on August 5. “That sounds weird because he’s always been dependable, but what happens if he loses a step at age 36?”

Horford played insanely well for his age last year, but as he continues to near the end of his career, the Celtics may need to level their expectations.

Extra Minutes Could Catch Up to Him

Before joining the Celtics last offseason, Horford spent the majority of the previous season resting. He parted ways with the Oklahoma City Thunder, meaning he had plenty of time to rest and get his body right. But now, the big man will be coming off of a season that saw him go on the deepest playoff run of his career.

“But what if age actually catches up to Horford? He was as fresh as possible last season after the Oklahoma City Thunder put him on the shelf for months the previous year. This season, he will be coming off the longest playoff run of his career, which he played an extra 815 minutes. It would be natural if the coming season is more taxing for him,” King noted.

Horford was great for the Celtics in the playoffs. At times, he was the difference between them winning and losing games. But as his career goes on, Boston likely won’t be able to count on him as much. He’ll still be an important piece of the puzzle, but they need to give him more and more rest as time goes on.

The veteran center will likely continue to start for the Celtics until they find a replacement option, but according to King, they could already have some succession plans in place.

Potential Horford Minutes Replacements

As Horford inches closer and closer to retirement, the Celtics will have to start searching for replacements. Horford can continue to play important minutes for them, but having guys like Grant Williams and Gallinari on the roster should help take the load off of him.

“The Celtics surely know that. They can play Grant Williams and Gallinari more if Horford needs more time off. Still, he’s such a crucial part of what they do — and how they do it — that any sign of slippage would be a big deal,” King explained.

Horford has turned himself into a fan favorite in Boston, but unfortunately for Celtics fans, the prime years of his career are well behind him. Only time will tell how long he can keep up his current level of play.

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