An interesting addition to the list of teams hoping to land Al Horford this offseason are the Oklahoma City Thunder, although they have one bigger name on their mind right now.
Besides the Atlanta Hawks, Horford is on the shortlist for the Los Angeles Lakers, Boston Celtics, Miami Heat, Houston Rockets, Washington Wizards, Detroit Pistons and the Orlando Magic. He can play both the ‘4’ and the ‘5’ and if he takes the four-year contract now, it’s a little bit easier to digest, because he’s not a 10-year veteran, making a 30% cap-space player and not a 35%. That’s a lot of money for Horford, who could angle the 1+1 contract so many players are looking at considering where the cap space is going (from $94 million to around $110 million in 2017).
Add the Thunder to the list. They might be concerned about Kevin Durant leaving, but they can’t leave everything to one player. Look at the Blazers, who did a good job of putting up a competitive group around Damian Lillard. If Durant does bolt, the Thunder will do that around Russell Westbrook, while hoping he doesn’t leave in the 2017 free agency. But ideally, Horford comes after Durant is already signed to the Thunder, not instead of him.
How does it work? The Thunder are trying to make deals to move players and open up some cap space, because signing Durant takes them into tax territory they don’t want to be in. The Thunder already moved Serge Ibaka to the Orlando Magic which opens up a spot at power forward, but they’re also putting Enes Kanter on the trading block, despite signing him to a $70 million, four-year deal last summer when he was a restricted free agent. Kyle Singler, who barely played for the Thunder last season, is on the hook for $20 million ($5 million each year) through the 2019-2020 season, and is another movable asset. Anthony Morrow can be released and open up some cap space. The Thunder have some moves available to make this offseason about more than just keeping Durant.
The Hawks have their own plans regarding Horford, hoping to re-sign him, Kent Bazemore and add another high profile free agent, maybe Dwight Howard, who grew up in Atlanta. Trading Jeff Teague, which gives Dennis Schroder the starting point guard position, makes it possible for them to do more than just retain players and get stuck to where they’ve been for almost a decade now, which is a playoff team, but nothing more. The Thunder, obviously, are all about winning the championship, or at least putting up a team that is good enough to do that.