Boston Celtics Sign Al Horford, Fail To Address Biggest Needs

On Saturday, Al Horford and the Boston Celtics agreed to a 4-year, $113 million contract, according to ESPN.com. Horford, who was still negotiating with the Atlanta Hawks, decided that his best fit was in Boston. The Celtics now have another big name on the roster and another selling point for Kevin Durant, but Boston’s offseason moves have been questionable at best. Coming into the summer, the Celtics needed to add a rim protector from the center position and a knockdown three-point shooter from the perimeter. Boston has yet to truly address either of these concerns, despite loads of cap space and numerous picks in the 2016 NBA Draft.

Horford is certainly a strong addition to the Celtics. He averaged 17.1 points, 8.2 rebounds and 3.6 assists per 36 minutes last year with the Atlanta Hawks. Horford is one of the best power forwards on the defensive end, and he will only cement Boston’s elite defense. Furthermore, he fits in perfectly with the professional culture that Brad Stevens and his Boston team exemplifies.

Although Horford has stretched his shooting ability to the three-point line, he will not cement the Celtics as a better three-point shooting team. In 2015-16, Boston was No. 24 in effective field goal percentage per ESPN.com. This number was highly impacted by a lack of three-point shooting on Boston’s roster, despite the likes of Avery Bradley, Kelly Olynyk and Isaiah Thomas. The Celtics shot 33.5 percent as a team from behind the arc this past season, the third-worst mark in the league. Horford’s 34.4 percent three-point mark will improve Boston’s struggles slightly, but with only 3.5 attempts per 36 minutes, the Celtics still have a problem from the perimeter.

Horford’s development from behind the arc was somewhat surprising this past season, as he hadn’t made three-point shooting an emphasis in his game in any season prior to this one. In the upcoming season with the Celtics, Horford will now look to drive more, as he explains to ESPN.com.

“I probably got a little away from the post this year trying to expand my game and do different things. That is a point of emphasis, that I will try to be better in the post and be able to put the ball down a little more on the floor. Being able to drive a little more. Even though I had some strides in that area this year, I think I can be even better at that.”

Despite Horford’s offensive prowess, he still doesn’t provide the Celtics with a true center who can rebound and protect the rim that Boston needs. A player like Ian Mahimni, who recently signed with the Washington Wizards, would have been a rational target. However, the Celtics elected to make a splash in free agency, even if it meant leaving other (more fitting players) on the market. This past season, Boston finished No. 25 in defensive rebound rate, according to ESPN.com. This weakness will not be shored up with the addition of Horford, whose 18.2 percent defensive rebounding percentage leaves a lot to be desired. Ironically, Horford is leaving the Atlanta Hawks, a team that struggled with defensive rebounding and also ranked No. 25.

Ultimately, Boston chose to go with Al Horford over lower level options who may have helped with rebounding and rim protection problems inside. This decision most likely revolves around Kevin Durant’s decision, and the Celtics’ hope that Boston has a chance at luring him away from the Oklahoma City Thunder and Golden State Warriors. In the end, even if Durant chooses elsewhere, the Celtics will be left with a four-time NBA All-Star who will help Boston vie for one of the top seeds in the Eastern Conference next season.

[Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images]