Philadelphia 76ers might be Al Horford’s mystery suitor

The Philadelphia 76ers and Al Horford might be on a collision course.

As the Boston Celtics’ downward spiral continues, Al Horford‘s departure feels all but official. There have been rumors of a four-year, $112 million offer on the open market — an offer the Celtics are unwilling to match.

There hasn’t been a confirmed source of those rumors, but Dallas, Sacramento and New Orleans are natural assumptions. Some reports have already ruled out Dallas and New Orleans, though, and Sacramento committing long-term money to Horford feels premature.

One team that has been mentioned on a cursory level is the Philadelphia 76ers. Horford has been the Celtics’ cheat code against Philadelphia the past two seasons, defending Joel Embiid at an elite level and warping Brett Brown’s defensive schemes. He’s still one of the NBA’s most underrated talents.

The numbers lend even more credibility to the Horford-Sixers rumors. As @legsanity pointed out on Twitter, the Sixers would have exactly four years, $112 million to spend if Tobias Harris‘ cap hold is removed. If Harris signs elsewhere — a possibility that has picked up steam in recent weeks — Horford fits right into the Sixers’ cap sheet.

If it were a decision between Harris on the max or Horford, my personal preference would be Harris. He’s younger, a more dynamic offensive threat and has more room to grow alongside the Sixers’ current core.

Horford is probably the better player right now. And while I would have overwhelming concerns about how his contract ages — he’d be 37 when the fourth year concludes — his fit is an intriguing one.

The Sixers were a problem for Toronto in the postseason. Size was the main reason why, as Philadelphia’s length, physicality and versatility presented quite the handful for Nick Nurse. It wasn’t until Game 5 that Nurse comfortably adjusted to the Sixers’ rotation.

Horford would double down on the Sixers’ size and physical advantage. He’s another stout post defender who can lock up bigs inside, but he has also defended Ben Simmons as well as anyone over the past two seasons. He can switch on the perimeter and use his length to contain quicker wings. It’s in his repertoire, even at 33.

Both Embiid and Horford, forming a jumbo-sized starting frontcourt, would have the quickness to switch on the perimeter and defend in space. It would afford the Sixers two hulking presences without a significant weak point to target in pick-and-rolls or on switches.

Horford also fits on offense, where his three-point shooting and passing are tailor-made for Brett Brown’s system. It’d take time to find his fit next to Embiid, but he spaces the floor, plays with a high basketball I.Q. and can man the ship when Embiid sits.

If the Sixers were to lose Harris, there are worse options than Horford. He puts the Sixers back in immediate title contention, assuming Butler re-signs in conjunction. How long his lateral quickness and athleticism holds up becomes the primary question.

The Sixers should, without question, prioritize re-signing both Harris and Butler. Horford should be Plan B at this stage, not someone Philadelphia signs over Harris. But the numbers match to a striking degree and, in a sign of absolute destiny and an inevitable team-up, Horford and Embiid have followed each other on Twitter.

Next: 5 teams who pose the biggest threat in free agency

It’s not unreasonable to think the Sixers begin next season with a Ben Simmons, J.J. Redick, Jimmy Butler, Al Horford, Joel Embiid starting five.

Load Comments