Why a Reunion Could Be In The Cards For Former Celtics All-Star

Getty Images Al Horford and Isaiah Thomas of the Celtics

Amidst the beginning of a critical offseason for the Boston Celtics, team president of basketball operations Brad Stevens may want to consider reeling in a familiar face to help usher in a new era.

After completing the hiring process of finding a new head coach, Stevens will eventually turn his attention to focusing on the makeup of the roster and what he can do best to improve off of its mediocre .500 regular-season finish (36-36).

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Celtics’ Kemba Walker for OKC’s Al Horford?

It’s imperative for Stevens and the upper office to do their best to cater to the needs of All-Stars Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown, and the Celtics.

The coach needs to be someone who can keep the two constantly in tune with his or her’s voice to eventually establish a newfound culture in the locker room, and the Celtics have to revert to being one of the Eastern Conference’s defensive juggernauts of yesteryear.

Boston finished 2019-20 ranked third in the NBA in defensive efficiency, and two seasons before that, the Celtics finished second, per Teamrankings.com. Both runs, respectfully, ended in the Eastern Conference finals, including 2018’s Game 7 loss against LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers while 2020-21 saw Boston’s defense ranked 17th.

Al Horford’s Impact in Boston

Oklahoma City Thunder center Al Horford was the Celtics’ defensive anchor of that 2018 team that fell one win shy of heading to the NBA Finals. And if Boston has an opportunity to trade for Horford via Kemba Walker, this summer, it’s a trade worth making if you’re Stevens and the Celtics.

Horford, who throughout 2017-19 led the Celtics’ defense to finish top-4 in the conference in defensive efficiency, per Teamrankings.com, including in 2018 when Boston’s defense topped the Philadelphia 76ers for the conference’s most efficient defense, is certainly worth trading for. Big Al averaged 14.2 points, 6.7 rebounds, and shot at a 45% clip in 28 games for the Thunder, this past season — which are numbers not far off from 13.6 points, 6.7 rebounds, and 53.3% Horford averaged throughout his final season with the Celtics.

As for the Thunder’s interest in trading Horford, future first and second-round draft picks seem to be the name of the game. However, will the Celtics be willing to fork them over?

Or, better yet, why would the Thunder be more interested in bringing in Walker; whose contract is worth $36 million next season, and $37.6 million in 2022-23 instead of Horford’s $27 million for this upcoming season and $26.5 million, for the next?

An Al Horford Reunion & Kemba Walker’s Player-Option

Two reasons: one, to stockpile future draft picks; OKC isn’t in a position to compete in the Western Conference, quite yet. So, the tanking will most likely carry over into 2021-22.

Two, restructuring Walker’s player-option for 2022-23 could give the Thunder flexibility to either flip Kemba to a contender for assets before his deal expires or if Walker is best-suited for the Thunder, plug Walker into a secondary bench role behind Shai Gilgeous-Alexander at a reduced cost.

As for the Celtics, Horford wouldn’t necessarily be thrust into the same role he had two years ago. Instead, as one half of an enforcing duo alongside Robert Williams, Al would return to the power forward position, where he can anchor the defense while providing a boost on the opposite end of the floor with his outside touch and moves in the post.

Horford is also a leader and someone who’s still revered by his former teammates, including Williams, who at the start of the season claimed Al was instrumental in his development and that Al still kept tabs on his young protege, via text messaging. Horford, 35, is also an underrated passer and certainly fits the criteria of a player who would come in and make life a bit easier for All-Stars Tatum and Brown.