Boston Celtics big man Al Horford threw a wrench into NBA free agency speculation earlier this week when it was reported that he will decline his option with the Celtics and enter free agency. Horford had been expected to remain in Boston.
While speculation first centered on what the Celtics might do without Horford and Kyrie Irving, who is also expected to leave Boston, it soon turned to where Horford might sign.
Per a Twitter account called Mavs Draft, sports reporter Shams Charania said in a radio interview this week that four teams are seen as the favorites for Horford: Los Angeles Lakers, Dallas Mavericks, Houston Rockets, and Philadelphia 76ers.
Philadelphia reporter Brian Michael Jacobs added on Twitter that a Sixers source confirmed the team’s interest in Horford and that the Sixers view Horford as a “plan-B option” in the event that free agents Jimmy Butler and Tobias Harris don’t re-sign in Philadelphia. Malcolm Brogdon is another free agent Philadelphia would likely pursue in that scenario.
A signing of Horford would give the Sixers a formidable frontcourt tandem, along with Joel Embiid. The salary cap implications, however, would likely be challenging for the team.
The Lakers are still trying to clear cap space in order to sign a third max-level player to put with Lebron James and Anthony Davis. The Rockets are also lacking in cap room and would need to get creative in order to clear some of it.
Per The Inquisitr, Horford had been discussing a new three-year deal to stay in Boston as the team’s veteran leader. But earlier this week, he made it clear that he wants to be a free agent and sign a three- or four-year deal with another team. The player’s decision, per The Boston Herald, “appears to simply be a move for a better chance at a championship with a club willing to pay him more on a longer-term contract.”
The five-time All-Star played the early part of his career with the Atlanta Hawks before signing a four-year, $113 million contract with Boston in 2016. If Horford and Irving both leave, the Celtics’ top players will be Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown, Gordon Hayward, and Marcus Smart, while Terry Rozier is a restricted free agent.
The Celtics, who failed to land Anthony Davis in a trade, also have three first-round draft picks in Thursday night’s NBA Draft, although the team is said to be trying to consolidate or dump at least one of them.