Boston Celtics‘ president of basketball operations, Brad Stevens, has been wheeling and dealing his way through his first summer on the job. While no move he’s made thus far has been earth-shattering, he’s made a slew of savvy decisions to revamp the roster on the go, while also better setting up the franchise for the long haul.
Of course, it was the Kemba Walker trade that kickstarted everything. After being lectured by the outsiders that the veteran point guard’s contract was unmovable, Stevens proved otherwise. Boston unloaded Walker in exchange for veteran Al Horford and big man Moses Brown — which eventually turned into Josh Richardson.
Moving off Walker’s contract was a huge relief for the Cs, plus the return of Big Al wasn’t a bad consolation prize. With that said, while the 35-year-old Horford proved to still have some juice in an abbreviated run in Oklahoma City, no one would mistake his two-year, $53.5 million contract ($41.5 million) for a team-friendly one.
“Al Horford’s return to Boston is full of feel-good vibes, but let’s be honest: He wouldn’t be a member if the Celtics if they didn’t have a worse contract they needed to unload (Kemba Walker’s two-year, $74 million, which the Oklahoma City Thunder promptly bought out),” wrote Bleacher Report’s Zach Buckley.
Chances are Boston would prefer not to pay out the entirety of Horford’s deal, especially with eyes looking ahead to next year’s free agency pool and/or the trade market.
Proposal Ships Horford to Charlotte, Celtics Snag Kelly Oubre
Buckley believes he’s mustered up a proposal that would allow Stevens to once again work his magic, moving off what the B/R analyst dubs the team’s very “worst contract.”
At this stage of the 35-year-old Horford’s career, he’s worth nowhere near the $27 million he’ll collect this season. Even his $14.5 million partial guarantee for next season seems steep given the way his production cratered the past two years. He’s solid, but he’s paid like a star.
If Boston wanted to unload Horford, the Charlotte Hornets might value his inside-out versatility (which Mason Plumlee) doesn’t offer and the lessons he could teach young bigs P.J. Washington, Kai Jones, Vernon Carey Jr. and JT Thor. A package of Plumlee, Kelly Oubre Jr. and filler might be enough for both teams to see win-win potential in a deal.
While maybe no longer the perennial All-Star he was earlier in his career, Horford — a 36.4% career 3-point shooter — would undoubtedly add some range to Charlotte’s frontcourt. The deal would also reunite Horford with a familiar face, Mr. Gordon Hayward. The two veterans spent two seasons as teammates together in Beantown from 2017-2018.
As Buckley alluded to, Plumlee is essentially non-existent from beyond the arc, attempting just 39 3-pointers in his eight-year career. However, for Boston’s case, he’d be able to eat up leftover minutes in the frontcourt behind the newly extended Robert Williams and free-agent signee Enes Kanter. Plumlee, 31, averaged 10.4 points and a career-high 9.3 rebounds for the Detroit Pistons in 2020. Yet, is that worth ridding themselves of a stretch big that the team had so readily sought after separating from Horford the first time? For what it’s worth, the team did just acquire Juancho Hernangomez, who has flashed range at times (knocked down 42.0% of his 3-point attempts in 14 games with the Minnesota Timberwolves in 2019).
The move would allow Time Lord more minutes to hopefully blossom into the high-level big the Celtics paid him to be. Then again, having a savvy veteran such as Horford to lean on could prove invaluable for Williams’ development.
As for Oubre, he’s an extremely tantalizing talent, albeit with flaws in his game. He’s an explosive athlete who can get hot from three at times — shot 35.2% from deep in 2019. He can also have bouts where he misses 14 consecutive shots from beyond the arc, as he did to kickstart his Warriors tenure last year. Still, Oubre is only 25-years-old and just one season removed from averaging 18.7 points and 6.4 rebounds per game.
His two-year, $24.6 million contract is stomachable and could prove attractive in a future trade down the line if he can improve his consistency. The question is how much run would he get to flaunt his skillset operating in a Boston wing rotation consisting of Jaylen Brown, Jayson Tatum an improving Aaron Nesmith and the aforementioned Jason Richardson.