Philadelphia 76ers must count on Al Horford to age with efficiency

Al Horford | Philadelphia 76ers (Photo by Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE via Getty Images)
Al Horford | Philadelphia 76ers (Photo by Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE via Getty Images) /

The Philadelphia 76ers will be watching the progression of Al Horford very closely

With the countdown until opening night of the NBA season rapidly nearing its end (about 1,037 hours or slightly over 43 days of the writing of this article), there are multitudes of speculations and narratives in play.

The Philadelphia 76ers are no different than the rest NBA, and in fact, they may be one of the teams under the most scrutiny. With the departure of Jimmy Butler and the additions of Josh Richardson and Al Horford, there is reason to be very excited if you are a Philly fan. However, current day excitement aside, one of the questions quietly (or not so quietly, depending on circles you run in) is regarding the long-term value of adding Al Horford.

The contract details

During the offseason, Al Horford signed a four-year contract with Philadelphia, totaling $109,000,000. This includes a guaranteed $97,000,000, which is simply more than anyone else was willing to offer.

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Nevertheless, this means Horford will be earning $26,500,000 in his age 36 season. The problem with this is that most players begin their decline long before age 36. There are only a few exceptions to this rule, which we can look at in any NBA season and see is the case. Horford has never been considered a “superstar” and so the big question is, “will Philadelphia live to regret this?”

The facts on Horford

Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) are a significant and leading indicator of what kind of Return on Invest (ROI) you can expect if you keep the source elements (data variables) consistent. This is the difficult part, as none of us can tell the future; but, the purpose of KPIs is to allow the past to tell us about the future with acceptable accuracy.

If we look at Horford’s basic KPIs (courtesy of Cleaning the Glass) we see something encouraging. Horford has averaged 32.6 minutes per game for his career, and while this past season may be under that average (29.0 mins per game), it is little cause for concern. Horford has never been the fleetest of feet on the court, but Al is as smart as he has ever been. Additionally, his assist and assist to usage ratios are sky-high—he is in elite territory—and incredibly efficient as a facilitator.

Philadelphia fans may not be interested in another passing big man, but you may be missing an important point here: Joel Embiid can shoot. With diminished coverage on him, as Horford is still a dangerous mid-range shooter and above average inside scorer, Embiid will see open space to shoot and drive.

One of JoJo’s bug-a-boos is his hand coordination receiving the high post pass—his ability to pull off the dribble is impressive—but he must gather the pass in first, and he has had more than a few critical mishaps in that regard. Hopefully, more space, with an offseason to improve, will mitigate some of these items. These are some of the things Horford brings that can’t be calculated.

Long-term benefits

Ultimately, a skilled big who can pass the ball and score from the mid-range has an extended shelf life in the NBA — health permitting. Horford will bring many intangibles to this team now and moving forward, but what he will bring that will become a long-term asset is his intelligence, and that can and will tangibly affect the game.

In his age 36 season, this author expects Horford to be slightly below career averages, still moving the ball and providing good mid-range scoring. He will spend his years spelling Embiid and being an intelligent and gritty defender who will find ways to shut down younger and more agile opponents than he (see Horford vs. Embiid).

This spend will prove to be an intelligent move by Philadelphia decision-makers, and the author predicts Horford to finishing out the full contract in a 76ers uniform.

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What are your thoughts on the longevity of Big Al?  Provide some examples of players you think fit a comparison and make your voice heard on the matter.