The Boston Celtics are entering a bizarre off-season, with long-rumored target Anthony Davis off the market and Kyrie Irving twisting in the winds of free agency. In addition, the Celtics have other intriguing decisions to make and, on Tuesday, word broke that incumbent big man Al Horford will decline his lucrative 2019-20 player option in favor of unrestricted free agency.
Given Horford’s age (33), it isn’t shocking to see the former All-Star make the choice to hit the market and capitalize on yet another productive season in Boston. However, the Celtics desperately need Horford to return and, as such, ESPN’s reporting that the two sides “have interest in working toward a new deal” makes complete sense.
Though Horford is likely at the tail end of his prime, his game has aged beautifully, with a combination of dead-eye shooting (at least when compared to centers) and versatile, acumen-driven defensive impact. Beyond that, Boston’s salary cap sheet is of great intrigue, with most believing Irving will leave for greener pastures and very little mechanism for the Celtics to replace both players in a doomsday scenario. The Celtics also have other free agents, headlined by Terry Rozier and Marcus Morris, to contend with and Gordon Hayward’s bounce-back uncertainty as a potential swing for the franchise.
Horford will almost certainly command significant interest on the open market, particularly if he is willing to take a lesser starting salary in favor of additional years and security. With that in mind, Boston will have an interesting negotiation on their hands but, if Horford elects to choose a different destination, it would be a significant blow to the Celtics and their ability to contend in the immediate future.