The Celtics big splash in the off-season wasn’t exactly the big name top five guy that many had been expecting. Visions of Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and Blake Griffin kept Celtics fans giddy for a few months with the hope that gun-slinging Danny might pull of the Celtics Overhaul 2.0 (last one being the Garnett and Ray Allen acquisitions). Al Horford is a fine player, although many might question the max contract that he was signed to, but we’ll leave that up for another day’s debate.
Are the Celtics a better team with Horford? I would say that’s an unequivocal yes, but the big lingering question is whether or not the signing of Horford gets the team deep in the playoffs. I’m not so sure. Aside from Horford, the only other changes were made through the draft, and let’s not forget that Jaylen Brown is still very much a project (albeit one with a lot of upside. So is the Celtics team of 2015-2016 + Al Horford + Jaylen Brown – Sullinger – Evan Turner a team that can improve on a one and done in the playoffs?
I guess the real answer comes down to how some of the younger guys improve (I’m looking at you Marcus) and what sort of impact Al Horford has on the team. I refer to one Thomas Heinsohn to get some thoughts on the newly acquired Horford.
Tommy had this to say about Horford after the Celtics Game 1 loss to the Hawks in the Eastern Conference first round series:
“They (the Celtics) had to be totally despondent going into the locker room. The fact that they turned it around shows what kind of heart this basketball team has. That is the encouraging part. The additional encouraging part is if they can go out and stay aggressive at both ends of the floor, they can beat this team because (Al) Horford, as much as you think he’s a great player, he’s not a great player. Get a man on him and he has trouble scoring.”
Let’s face it –we know Horford isn’t Kevin Durant, Westbrook or even Griffin on the offensive end. But he’s a versatile player , a smart overall basketball talent that should thrive in Brad Stevens’ offensive system. The guy is a team player, knows how to effectively screen with the ability to shoot from mid range or inside. He’s not going to score 25 a game, with 10/10 but 15 points, 8 rebounds with 3 assists and a block per game is about where Horford has been over his career.
If there’s one criticism of the signing it’s that Horford is now 30 and I have reservations about a player his age getting such a huge contract. I’d expect some deterioration in his play probably somewhere in year 2 to 3 of his contract, but overall, I think Horford makes the Celtics a better team. Horford minus Sullinger in my mind is probably worth an extra 4 to 5 wins this year. But I still don’t think the Celtics have what it takes to go all the way with this team. Trader Danny is still watching and waiting though–he might not be done just yet.
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