The NBA rumors regarding Al Horford suggest a very busy week for the soon-to-be free agent, with the Golden State Warriors leading a growing group of potential suitors for the Atlanta Hawks big man.
Though he was one of the most important players on a very improved Hawks team, Horford hasn’t gotten the media attention in free agency as some of the other big names, including Dwight Howard or Kevin Durant.
In fact, it may end up being Kevin Durant who is the key to Horford’s future. Marcus Thompson of the Bay Area News Group reported that the Warriors are looking for a more versatile center, and Horford could fit the bill.
According to sources familiar with free agent talks, the Warriors are looking at Al Horford, Joakim Noah and even Hassan Whiteside. The contract demands might be too hefty but the goal is clear. The Warriors can’t thrive with a center that doesn’t attack the rim or score inside.
But that will likely come after the Warriors make a run at Durant, this year’s biggest free agent. Rumors indicated that the Warriors have been planning their run at Durant for several years now, setting up their salary cap structure to offer him the biggest contract.
Durant has said he wants to end up with the team that gives him the best chance at winning a title, and it’s hard to argue against the Warriors, who have been to the NBA Finals twice and were within one minute and potentially one LeBron James block from being back-to-back champions.
Once the dust settles on Durant, the Warriors are expected to pick up their pursuit of Horford.
Competition for the big man could be high. ESPN’s Marc Stein reported that Horford is drawing strong interest from the Magic, Pistons, and Lakers.
Free Agency Rumble: Orlando, Detroit and the Lakers are all among the teams that intend to make a run at Atlanta big man Al Horford.
— Marc Stein (@ESPNSteinLine) June 22, 2016
And that could be only part of the list. There are at least a half-dozen other teams with at least some level of interest in Horford.
— Wiz of Awes (@WizOfAwes) June 26, 2016
Heat, Celtics, Wizards Reportedly in Consideration for Al Horford – https://t.co/3Di9zPOK4p
— GREEN RUNS DEEP™☘ (@CelticsNation5) June 26, 2016
But if the NBA rumors are true and the Golden State Warriors see Al Horford as their back-up plan should they not land Kevin Durant, that it’s looking likely that the NBA Finals runner-up will be courting Horford. While the Warriors are seen as a strong contender to land Durant, the overwhelming sentiment in the last week is that he will ultimately return to the Oklahoma City Thunder.
KWTV’s Dean Blevins reported that sources within Kevin Durant’s camp said he will likely be back in Oklahoma City on a new five-year contract, and ESPN noted that Durant’s meetings with other suitors probably won’t deter him from plans to return to the Thunder.
“Yet while that might be enough to keep Thunder general manager Sam Presti up for a few torturous nights, the prospect of Durant returning on a two-year deal (with a player option in the second) to the only franchise he has ever known remains as likely now as it did on the night his latest season ended in that Western Conference Finals Game 7 loss at Oracle Arena. And yes, that’s still the case after the Thunder’s shocking draft night trade on Thursday.”
Even if Durant chooses to try his luck somewhere other than Oklahoma City, that doesn’t necessarily make Golden State the frontrunner. The San Antonio Spurs are also rumored to be a strong contender, and could make Durant the centerpiece of a new-look team with Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili, and Tony Parker likely retiring soon and handing over the reins to a new core that could include Durant along with Kawhi Leonard and LaMarcus Aldridge.
Once the dust settles on Kevin Durant, the NBA rumors surrounding Al Horford could become the dominant story in free agency.
[Photo by Nam Y. Huh/AP Images]