Analyst’s Proposed Celtics Swap For Thunder Center ‘Makes Sense’

Getty Images Giannis Antetokounmpo of the Bucks is defended by Al Horford of the Thunder

The NBA trade deadline is fast approaching while Boston Celtics Danny Ainge’s chances to flip the script on the underwhelming 2021 regular season hangs in the balance.

Unlike any other team, the Celtics’ $28.5 million Traded Player Exception (TPE) gives them room to target guys making less money, this year, than the TPE’s overall value. It was the most Ainge could squeeze out from Gordon Hayward’s decision to join the Charlotte Hornets.

For the second consecutive offseason, Celtics fans watched another one of their max-contract players walk out the door. Now, on the cusp of trading season, one Celtics analyst is calling for Ainge to bring back the former in Oklahoma City Thunder’s Al Horford; a familiar face who’s a versatile defender and has the potential to put coach Brad Stevens and his offense at ease.

In fact, Yahoo Sports’ Justin Quinn says bringing back Horford makes more sense than you think, and here’s how it would work.

Celtics Acquire OKC Thunder’s Al Horford Via 3-Player Swap In Proposed Trade

Celtics get: Al Horford

Thunder get: Daniel Theis, Tristan Thompson & Jeff Teague (or Carsen Edwards)

As Quinn points out, seeing two of the Celtics’ current three-center monster dissipate into a new reality where Horford and back-up center Robert Williams take the reins as the new anchors of the middle is a lot to digest.

“It wouldn’t be a painless trade, but it could make sense on several levels given the team’s current frontcourt logjam and free agency concerns,” Quinn wrote, via Yahoo Sports. “If the Celtics were to deal Tristan Thompson, Daniel Theis and Jeff Teague to OKC, they’d slide in at $2.47 million under the tax, with the wiggle room and roster space to sign a minimum player with under 10 years of experience.

“We say it wouldn’t be painless because Theis is truly an excellent and also-beloved big man, but with a step back, the argument is there for such a trade.”

Celtics’ Daniel Theis $5 Million Contract Due To Expire

Horford would return to being Stevens’ go-to, full-time center, which adds further pressure for this proposed reunion work. However, this upcoming offseason, as Quinn points out, the Celtics could watch Theis leave, either way — he’ll be a free agent.

“It’s questionable whether the Celtics will be able to afford Theis’ next contract, as the German big man is set to become a free agent this offseason, and teams like the Thunder lacking in big men may well poach Theis away with an offer sheet larger than Boston is willing to pay,” Quinn wrote. “Add in that with both he and Thompson on the roster, the development of Robert Williams has clearly been affected negatively, as likely has that of Grant Williams, who excelled in the 2020 Playoffs as a small-ball 5, but has struggled to work as an NBA forward.”

Williams, who’s been playing significantly better of late, has regained a position in Stevens’ rotation this season and would be a key secondary cog for Brad if the Celtics were to actually land a deal that brings Al back to Boston. Bouncing back from his lone trying season with the Philadelphia 76ers, Horford has been efficient for the OKC, this season.

He’s averaging 14.4 points, 6.7 rebounds, 3.3 assists, and one block per game. Al’s also scoring at a 45.5% clip from the floor, including 37.6% from behind the 3-point arc.

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