Big Al, as he was known in Atlanta, is suddenly the hot ticket on the free agent market that begins on July 1st. The Thunder are desperately trying to dump salary and sign Al Horford because Kevin Durant wants to play with him. That, in and of itself, says something about who Durant does not want to play with (he is willing to throw Ersan Ilyasova and his one year deal overboard to bring Horford to OKC).
The Celtics don’t have to do that much manuevering to get Horford. All they have to do is convince Durant to come to Boston and suddenly the C’s have two new All-Stars. The Lakers are the Horford longshot. If they can get Hassan Whiteside, Horford may be convinced to play power forward.
All this Horford love for a player who is 30 years old and has only played in the conference finals once (swept by the Cavs). He has never been an Olympian and has not been an All-Star (five times) more than he has has been an All-Star (four times). He is not a top-10 NBA player. In his nine year career, Hoford has had a PER over 20.0 three times. (It was 19.4 this past season). He has averaged double digit rebounds once and that was four years ago. He has had a higher assist percentage than rebounding percentage the last three years. He’s never averaged 20 points in his career and his 15.2 points this past season is just five points more than his rookie number of 10.1. But his defensive rating on the Hawks (103) in 2015-16 was the second best in his career.
In 2015-16, Horford’s Real Plus-Minus ranked him 8th among centers, lower than Andrew Bogut and Cole Aldrich. He’s undersized ala Draymond Green but whereas Green was ranked 3rd in Defensive Real Plus-Minus, Hoford was ranked 49th.
Horford is being courted and wined and dined and is as popular as any free agent not named Durant. He has great leadership intangibles. He is graceful when he wins and graceful when he loses. Though his game is finesse, he has toughness on the glass and in the paint and spaces the floor. He is a great teammate and friend and is a “we” player not a “me” player. Rarely, if ever, does he hold the ball longer than five seconds. It’s move it or shoot it.
Horford doesn’t know what it feels like to miss the playoffs and sulk at home; every single year of his career he has played in the postseason. That said, he has suffered. He has lost in the first round four times and in the second round four times, and in the conference finals once. His playoff PER (17.0) is lower than his regular season PER (19.1) so he hasn’t exactly delivered when it matters most.
The #3 draft pick in 2007 who won a title at the University of Florida and has never once complained about the Hawks underachievement, personnel, coaching, losing, roster construction, ownership, or the frustration of not being able to advance in the playoffs, Horford is a coaches dream.
Throwing shade at the Hawks is a national sport; no one believed in them even when they won 60 games. Except…
Kevin Durant wants to play with Al Horford and so that means teams are busting their ass to try to figure out how to get him on their team. The Thunder are willing to turn the roster upside down to accommodate Horford and his max deal because it is what Durant wants. That is a peek into the Thunder window at how desperate they are to keep Durant, that without him this whole Thunder house comes crashing down.
Regardless if the Thunder are successful in bringing Horford in or not- and it’s interesting to note that the Warriors and Spurs, the main contenders other than the Thunder in the Durant prize, have no interest in signing Horford- the adage of nice guys finishing last is a lie flung around for its comedic timing.
Al Horford is a nice guy. He won’t finish last this off-season.
photo via llananba