Since returning to the Boston Celtics, Al Horford has become an integral member of the rotation and has rebuilt his value around the league as a result.
Never one to fill up the box score or earn highlight moments that go viral, Horford is often underappreciated for what he brings to the table. Yet, Brad Stevens knew exactly what he was getting when he moved Kemba Walker to bring the veteran center back to Boston in the off-season, and it seems like Stevens’ was right to take the gamble.
However, according to Bleacher Reports Zach Buckley, the Celtics should look to split from the veteran big man in the off-season, and promote Grant Williams or Daniel Theis to the starting lineup moving forwards.
“He is the oldest member of Boston’s first five and, by net differential at least, the least productive (plus-4.1, worst among Celtics starters). His contract also happens to feature the easiest escape clause, as only $14.5 million of his $26.5 million salary for next season is fully guaranteed.
If the Celtics split from Horford this offseason, they could either promote from within (Grant Williams and Daniel Theis are capable candidates) or search for a combo forward with better mobility and a more reliable three-ball,” Buckley reasoned in his latest article.
Horford is Capable of Coming off the Bench
It’s true, Horford’s contract is wildly inflated for a player of his age, but his impact on the floor makes it easy to stomach such a lofty cap hit. It’s no coincidence that since Horford has returned to the Celtics, their defense has vastly improved and the in-fighting has been almost non-existent.
Everyone on the roster respects what the veteran big man brings to the table, they understand that his value far exceeds what you see in the box score and that his presence within the locker room has aided in such a strong season of development from some of the younger players.
So, rather than moving Horford in the off-season, the Celtics could choose to slightly reduce his role and play him off the bench, thus allowing Grant Williams to take his place among the starting five – which he has rightfully earned throughout the season. If you recall, before the season began there was a debate about whether Horford would be a starter or be used off of the bench, so it’s not like this idea hasn’t been considered before.
After all, the Florida product will be entering his age 36 season next year, and will eventually need to start scaling back his nightly duties, and what better time to do so than next season, in the final year of his contract before hitting free agency?
Williams Has Earned His Shot
Multiple Celtics players have shown vast improvement this season, but none of them have covered as much developmental ground as Grant Williams has this year. Just a season prior, Celtics fans were calling for the Tennessee product to be traded, or at least dropped from the rotation due to numerous defensive mistakes.
It felt like every time Williams took to the floor, he would get cooked by being dragged out onto the perimeter and then getting blown by off the dribble or picked on in pick-and-roll situations. However, as we’ve just witnessed in Boston’s first-round sweep of the Brooklyn Nets, Williams is now one of the team’s better perimeter defenders, and can even be trusted to guard elite scorers like Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving.
Williams has also taken a leap on the offensive end of the floor too, becoming one of the best three-point shooters in the NBA, and quickly earning himself a role within the team’s offense as a floor-spacing big off the bench.
Assuming the Celtics sign Williams to a contract extension in the coming months, his place within the starting five will eventually be cemented. So, if head coach Ime Udoka feels that Horford’s best chance of remaining competitive is from the bench next year, then Williams is likely to be the beneficiary of that move.