While he’s not the first name mentioned in free agency talk and rumors, Al Horford is going to be a big addition for someone, unless he chooses to stay with the Atlanta Hawks. Among those looking to sign the veteran big man are the Los Angeles Lakers, Boston Celtics, Miami Heat, Houston Rockets, Washington Wizards, Orlando Magic and Detroit Pistons.
Horford, the third overall pick in 2007, has played for the Hawks his entire career. He averaged 15.2 points and 7.3 rebounds per game, making his fourth All-Star selection. His per minute numbers dropped a little bit, but at 30 and entering his 10th NBA season, Horford is still one of the more versatile centers-power forwards in the NBA, with the ability to stretch the floor, defend the rim and pass the ball, giving teams the versatility they’re looking for from their big men these days.
The most logical move for Horford is stay in Atlanta, in terms of money at least. They can offer him the five year max, but it might make more sense for him, just like most NBA players, to sign a one year deal, for two reasons: The salary cap will get another serious bump in 2017 (reportedly up to $116 million from $94 million), and he’ll be a third-tier veteran, meaning he can get 35% of the salary cap and not “just” 30% like he can this season.
But maybe money isn’t the only thing on Horford’s mind, who made $60 million over the last five seasons with the Hawks. Atlanta reportedly put him on the trading block during the 2015-2016 season. They did the same with Jeff Teague and managed to move him in a three-team trade involving the Indiana Pacers and Utah Jazz this week. They missed the train with Horford, but might have helped push him away by trying to put a price tag on him, even if it is smart business.
Horford can play both center and power forward, and is probably a better ‘4’ than a ‘5’, but in Atlanta, he’s been mostly used a center, next to Paul Millsap or other players previously. Both the Pistons and the Magic have dominant big men the franchise revolves around, which could make things easier for Horford, although putting up so much money on two frontcourt players when the league is heading in a different direction might be weird.
For a lot of these teams, Kevin Durant comes first, so Horford might have to wait before he gets his chance to make his decision and sign, giving the Hawks and advantage. The Pistons, Magic and others not on Durant’s list could also get a nice time slot to make their Horford pitch work while others are busy with Durant. In a free agency that seems to be about just one player, Horford could be a huge prize no one is really paying attention to.