For all the craziness that surrounded Boston this season, Al Horford’s free agency was supposed to be as drama-free a decision as there was. The expectation was that Horford would decline the player option on his contract and enter unrestricted free agency, at which point the two sides would work out a longer deal worth less money to keep him on the Celtics.
But for one reason or another, that all changed, and reports indicated that Horford was on his way out of Boston. There was reportedly a “mystery team” in the mix for Horford that led him to decline the Kings interest, and while there was speculation the Celtics would try to get involved in talks to bring him back by way of sign-and-trade magic, they were not able to.
Another team was able to use a sign-and-trade to clear the necessary space to bring in Horford, as Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN reported Horford is on his way to Philadelphia to join the Sixers following the completion of a sign-and-trade to send Jimmy Butler to the Heat.
While giving a 33-year-old center a longer deal is always a bit of a risk, Horford is a prime candidate for a center whose game will age gracefully. The standout big man is as savvy of a player as there is in the league, always knowing where to be and how to make the right play at a given time. While Kyrie Irving’s strange season and some apparent infighting led to the Celtics failing to reach their lofty expectations last year, Horford was a rock in the middle, mixing stout defense with nightly averages of 13.6 points, 6.7 rebounds, 4.2 assists, and 1.3 blocks per game.
Horford joins a stacked frontcourt consisting of Joel Embiid and the recently re-signed Tobias Harris, and the flexibility they now have in their frontcourt rotation is fascinating. With J.J. Redick leaving, they needed perimeter scoring, but adding Josh Richardson in the Butler deal will help them in that regard. With Kawhi Leonard’s decision pending, Philadelphia once again will be in the conversation at the top of the Eastern Conference, along with the Bucks and, in 2020-21, Brooklyn once Kevin Durant is healthy.