This past season, the Boston Celtics went on an incredible run to the NBA Finals. After starting out the season struggling to stay above .500, they managed to storm all the way through the playoffs before losing to the Golden State Warriors in the NBA Finals.
Jayson Tatum earned All-NBA First Team honors, Marcus Smart won the Defensive Player of the Year award, and Robert Williams was named to the All-Defensive Second Team. And while Al Horford wasn’t handed any honors, his playoff performance was nothing short of outstanding.
The 36-year-old big man exploded throughout the postseason, improving his regular-season averages in nearly every statistical category. However, while Horford was a crucial part of Boston’s starting lineup this past season, some have questioned whether or not he can reproduce at the same level next year.
“The only question mark is Al Horford,” sources told Sean Deveney of Heavy.com. “Obviously, if he plays like he did last year, it’s not a conversation, he is your guy. But he is 36 and there is a sense that he put everything he had into last season and, can he do it again?”
Horford will be back in Boston next season, but whether or not he’ll be playing at the same level is another story. In fact, reports have already indicated that he won’t be playing the same role next season.
Different Role for Horford Next Year
According to sources who spoke to Jared Weiss of The Atheltic, Horford’s role with the Celtics next year will be a bit different. Weiss reported that the Celtics big man is expected to sit out some games next year and take a step back when it comes to his minutes per game.
“They will certainly need center depth, as Al Horford is expected to sit out most back-to-backs and have his minutes limited even further next season, according to team sources,” Weiss noted.
During the regular season this past year, Horford averaged 10.2 points, 7.7 rebounds, and 3.4 assists on 46.7% shooting from the field and 33.6% shooting from behind the three-point line. Then, during the playoffs, he put up 12.0 points, 9.3 rebounds, and 3.3 assists on 52.3% shooting from the floor and 48.0% shooting from distance.
By the end of next season, Horford will be 37 years old. His contract will be up at the end of the season, and as long as he keeps up his production a bit, he and the Celtics will probably work on a more team-friendly deal. However, expecting him to remain in the starting lineup may be too optimistic.
However, the Celtics have plenty of options to replace him in the starting five if he does need to take a step back.
Boston’s Options to Replace Horford
The same sources who told Deveney about the questions surrounding Horford noted that Boston has lots of options to help replace his production. They mentioned Danilo Gallinari and Grant Williams and even suggested attacking the trade market.
“They have Gallinari, he can fill in at that spot. They have Grant Williams. But they also have those two other TPEs after the Fournier one expires, they can use one of those to get a guy during the season,” the anonymous source stated. “They have a lot of options. They definitely want another big guy but the sense is, they like what they have.”
So, as Horford enters the final years of his career, the Celtics will have plenty of options to help lessen the load placed on him in the upcoming years.