When it rains, it pours, and the Boston Celtics are learning this the hard way.
A 12-year NBA veteran, Horford left the Atlanta Hawks and signed with the Celtics in 2016 to play with a contender. Just a few years later, Horford has decided that he’s ready to move on. One of the most respected players in the Celtics’ locker room, Horford played an integral role both on and off the court. His decision to move on via free agency further hints at the dysfunction within the organization.
At 33 years old, Horford is approaching the final stretch of his career. The three or four-year deal he’ll receive in free agency will likely be the last long-term deal of his career. After failing to win in Boston, Horford will likely target another contender this upcoming free agency.
Considering this, let’s take a look at four potential landing spots for Al Horford.
Los Angeles Lakers
After trading for Anthony Davis, the Los Angeles Lakers immediately became favorites to win the 2020 NBA Finals. A championship contender for the foreseeable future in one of the largest markets in the world, the Lakers could be the best fit for Horford. When joining the Celtics in 2016, Horford placed strong importance on playing for a contender in a large market. After their debacle this past season, Horford has a chance to yet again play for a contender in a large market, this time in LA.
For the Lakers, the addition of Davis makes it all but impossible for them to sign a max free agent. Although they are in the midst of trying to clear cap space, the only realistic way that a max free agent like Kyrie Irving or Kemba Walker signs with the Los Angeles would be if they took a substantial pay cut.
In comes Al Horford. A serviceable veteran who’s looking for a three to a four-year deal that the Lakers could afford. Adding Horford to the fold would provide much-needed depth to their currently bare bones roster. Given LeBron James’ age, it also makes sense for both sides, as the three/four-year deal Horford is seeking lines up perfectly with the Lakers title window. It’s a win-win for both sides, giving Horford a final chance to compete for a title and the Lakers a proven veteran who will improve the team both on and off the court.
Led by young superstar Giannis Antetokounmpo, the Milwaukee Bucks look to be a threat in the league for years to come. With Brook Lopez likely on the move via free agency, the Bucks are in need of adding another big. With that in mind, Al Horford could perfectly fit this need. The Bucks give Horford the opportunity to contend now and in the coming years while playing a substantial role on the team. The only difficulty in signing Horford is the Bucks’ current cap space issues.
In order for Horford and the Bucks to work, he will need to take a hefty discount. With large contracts for Antetokounmpo, George Hill, and Eric Bledsoe already on the books, the Bucks are looking to reach a long-term deal with Khris Middleton as well. They’d also need to either let Malcolm Brogdon walk or convince him to play out the year on a qualifying offer in order to add Horford.
A longer-term contract might not be as plausible in regards to the cap, but a higher-priced two-year deal could be in the cards with some creative cap maneuvers. If a ring is truly Horford’s only goal, the Bucks are certainly one of the best options out there.
Los Angeles Clippers
Although they will forever be known as the second-most popular professional basketball team in Los Angeles, the Clippers have sustained more success than the Lakers of late. Last season, the Clippers finished 48-34 and gave the Golden State Warriors a scare in the first round of the Western Conference Playoffs. Similar to the Pacers, the Clippers are built around coaching with an emphasis on team play rather than individual stars. With the recent news that Kawhi Leonard is significantly interested in joining the Clippers, this could soon change.
If Leonard joins, the Clippers jump from being a bottom-tier Western Conference contender to an immediate top contender in the league. Even though Leonard is a two-time NBA Finals MVP, his calm and quiet demeanor prevents him from being a distraction. The current Clippers roster is filled with a balance of experienced players and a young core. Adding Horford to the mix would provide a player who will garner respect in the locker room while still making an impact on the floor.
A wild-card choice in the Al Horford sweepstakes, the Dallas Mavericks could be a good option for both sides. With the addition of likely Rookie of the Year Luka Doncic and the acquisition of Kristaps Porzingis, the Mavericks boast one of the brightest young cores in the entire league. Although the retirement of Dirk Nowitzki won’t affect the Mavericks on the floor, it certainly will off it. The Mavericks now have a leadership void in the absence of Nowitzki, which makes Horford a perfect candidate to come in and take it.
Even though he’s 33 years old, Horford would still be one of the premier players on the Mavericks roster. The Mavericks are improving and only going up from here, and Doncic showed last year that he might be driving the Mavs to contending status sooner rather than later. With a stable and appealing owner like Mark Cuban, Dallas is an intriguing option.