Al Horford has been an ever-present for the Boston Celtics this season, providing a veteran presence and proving he’s still one of the more versatile big men in the NBA.
However, Horford is earning $27 million this year and is partially guaranteed for $14.5 million next season. Should the veteran center be on a roster for the entirety of next season, his earnings will increase to the full $26.5 million for the final year of his deal. As a player who will be entering his age-36 season in 2022-23, Horford will be earning way beyond what his production level dictates.
But does that matter? After all, since Horford’s return to Boston, the team has become the best defense in the NBA, with the Puerto Plata native playing a pivotal role in the team’s good fortunes. Yet, money talks and the Celtics will certainly be doing their due diligence once the off-season rolls around.
According to Bleacher Report’s Greg Swartz, the Indiana Pacers could be a good trade partner, should Boston decide to part with Horford. “Horford (who will be on an expiring $26.5 million contract) means getting off the final year of Hield’s contract, a savings of $19.3 million heading into the summer of 2023. By doing so, Indiana would have just $43.8 million in total salary committed for the 2023-24 season, with Haliburton still on the final year of his rookie contract,” Swartz wrote in a recent article.
Overall, the proposed trade looks like this;
Indiana Pacers Receive Al Horford and a 2023 second-round pick courtesy of the Portland Trail Blazers.
Boston Celtics Receive Buddy Hield.
Horford’s Impact Goes Beyond the Box Score
Horford has struggled to shoot the three-ball throughout the majority of this season and has regularly found himself being left open by opposing defenses. But that hasn’t stopped Ime Udoka and the Celtics coaching staff from featuring the big man as a pick-and-pop option, because they know Horford will hit enough of his threes to provide the team with much-needed spacing.
But the 35-year-old center’s true value comes in his ability to make the right reads, play his role to perfection, and offer high-level, switchable defense on the perimeter. Much of what Horford does isn’t tracked by the standard box score, nor does it all show up in advanced metrics. When the third pick in the 2007 draft isn’t part of the Celtics gameday squad, you quickly notice his absence – and that speaks volumes.
Perhaps that’s why Horford never found success with the Philadelphia 76ers because they needed him to be more of an offensive threat, rather than somebody that operates in the margins and accentuates the talent around him.
The only downside to having Horford as a core member of your rotation is his age, as it’s clear he’s coming to the end of an impressive career. As such, Boston needs to be diligent in how they approach the final year of his contract, as finding a replacement is going to prove difficult, even if they do envision Grant Williams eventually slotting into Horford’s current role.
Hield Solves Shooting Woes
While the Celtics have made multiple moves to add shooting to their roster since the February 14 trade deadline, they’re still shy of an elite sharpshooter. Sure, Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown can get buckets whenever they choose, but having a catch-and-shoot specialist would go a long way to giving the team’s slashers more room to operate.
Sam Hauser, Nik Stauskas, Luke Kornet, and Aaron Nesmith are all known shooters that currently reside on Boston’s roster, yet none of the project to be elite snipers – guys who can get hot moments after checking into the game, and do so consistently. That’s where Buddy Hield comes into the equation.
Hield is a career 39.9% three-point shooter and is known as one of the best single-skill specialists in the NBA. However, the six-foot-four shooting guard has question marks surrounding his defensive ability, and considering how much of an onus Udoka places on being defensively sound, his fit on the Celtics is questionable at best. But one thing’s for sure, Boston needs shooting, and they don’t come much better than Hield.
Of course, the Celtics may choose to ride with Horford for the final year of his deal and add shooting in different ways, but with the final year of his contract looming, this trade could make perfect sense for Boston.