In light of Al Horford’s impressive stretch of performances in the 2022 playoffs, many have begun wondering how the Boston Celtics got Horford back for seemingly so little when it had been clear that the Oklahoma City Thunder were openly trying to get rid of him last year. Celtics Insider Chris Mannix explained how the Celtics got the deal done whereas other interested parties did not.
When the Celtics re-acquired Horford, the outgoing package to Oklahoma City was Kemba Walker – who was promptly waived and simultaneously signed with the New York Knicks – and their 2021 first-round draft pick, which was traded to the Houston Rockets who selected Alperen Sengun. Mannix explained why the Thunder took that package instead of the ones offered by other teams. Simply put, they wanted more out of the Thunder than just Horford.
“Every team that called Oklahoma City, they wanted the Thunder to attach an asset to take Al Horford,” Mannix said. “The Celtics were the only team to offer something in exchange.”
When the deal was agreed to, Horford had been benched by the Thunder on March 27, 2021, because, spoken right from the horse’s mouth, they wanted to focus on finding a new home for him. Because he had played only 28 games, and he was only one year removed from his disastrous tenure with the Philadelphia 76ers, Horford’s contract had negative value.
In his first season back with Boston, Horford has not only been worth every penny, but he may very well be playing himself into another sizable payday before he hangs it up.
Marcus Smart Lauds Horford as a Teammate and a Player
Following Horford’s excellent performance in Game 4 on May 9, Smart went out of his way to praise Horford after the game for what Horford does for the team.
“We love Al,” Smart said. “He’s the best vet I’ve ever had. He comes in, and it never changes with him. (If) things (are) going bad or good, he’s going to be him, and nine times out of 10, it’s going to work out in our favor. So, we were very much needed of him and he came through big for us, and helped us secure this win tonight.”
It didn’t stop there. Smart later went to his personal Twitter to single out Horford for how good the 35-year-old still is and wished that he could follow the same career path as Horford when he gets to that age.
It’s clear Smart and Horford share a good bond as teammates since they have played together for almost four years now. Not only that, but it’s clear Horford has left an impact on Smart’s career as a whole.
The Horford Trade Proves Those Risks are Worth Taking
At the time the Horford trade was announced, many were skeptical of the deal on Boston’s end. Trading a first-round pick along with Kemba Walker and his albatross contract for Horford was seen as very risky because, at the time, no one knew exactly what Horford’s value as a player was anymore. He was in his mid-30s, didn’t play much for his previous team, and his team before that attached a first-round pick to get off his contract.
Even with all that in mind, here’s why Boston originally made the trade. Because of Walker’s unfortunately recurring knee issues, he had proven that he was not dependable for the Celtics anymore. His lack of availability and production hindered Boston’s ceiling, which was not a welcome sign knowing the team’s timeline. With Jayson Tatum’s contract extension kicking in this season and Jaylen Brown only having two seasons left on his contract after this season ended, the clock had begun ticking for the Celtics to prove that they could build a winner around them.
With Horford, they were at least getting a proven commodity back even if it meant trading a first-round pick for him. Now they could have potentially selected a talented prospect with the 16th overall pick, but there’s no telling if the prospect would be someone good or if they would be ready for when the Celtics needed him. Since they were in win-now mode, they couldn’t take that chance. With Horford, they believed they were getting someone they could rely on. Or at the very least someone who would give them more bang for their buck than Walker.
In these playoffs alone, Horford has proven them right to the point where the public now believes trading for him was a savvy move made by Boston’s front office. Seeing Walker quickly fall out of New York’s rotation earlier in the year has only made it look better too. The season both players have respectively had can make one only imagine where Boston would be had they never agreed to the exchange.
Even if Horford had proven to be just as unreliable as Walker, his contract only having $14.5 million out of $26 million guaranteed for next season would have been a much more valuable asset to trade compared to Kemba’s. Horford has proven the last year of his contract is worth picking up, but even if he hadn’t, the failsafe in his deal made this trade a necessary risk for Boston to take knowing what was at stake.