Philadelphia 76ers: Al Horford “whispers” in trade market

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 might consider — key word: consider — a signifiant roster update.

The Philadelphia 76ers are 25-14, good for fifth in the Eastern Conference. While not an exceptional season given the expectations, the Sixers are very much a contender in the East. The question is how much of a contender they really are.

Despite a sluggish offense that would irritate John Beilein to no end, there are still stretches where Philadelphia’s size and physicality can overwhelm its opponents. Christmas Day was an example, and the Sixers’ 3-0 record against Boston is a positive sign.

The Sixers, if not consistently during the regular season, can at least win when it matters. When the Sixers show up, the results tend to veer in a positive direction. They have a rotation littered with elite defenders, hulking frames, and messily-fitted star power.

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Still, there are valid concerns over the degree to which Philadelphia can contend. Milwaukee and Miami are tough matchups, and Indiana will only get better. It’s unclear whether Philadelphia stands clearly above other conference powerhouses.

Perhaps the most common scapegoat in Philadelphia, beyond the go-to jab at Ben Simmons, is Al Horford. The 33-year-old signed a massive four-year deal over the summer, but hasn’t quite found his rhythm as Joel Embiid‘s frontcourt partner.

With Embiid set to miss 2+ weeks due to injury, Horford will step into the void at center. The early returns are positive, as he dropped 17 points and held strong on defense in Thursday’s win over Boston. Spending $109 million for Horford’s best games to come without Embiid, however, is an inevitably flawed allocation of resources.

According to Yahoo’s Vincent Goodwill, there have been “whispers” of a potential Al Horford deal ahead of Feb. 8’s trade deadline. Goodwill makes a strong point, one I’ve made in the recent past. The Sixers need Embiid to win a title, so why spend $109 million on Embiid insurance? Build around Embiid, not behind Embiid.

Horford doesn’t fit as well as initially hoped next to Embiid. He’s still a very good player, and for that reason I’m skeptical of any such trade happening. The Sixers, Brett Brown most notably, have a clear respect for Horford. It’s why he was signed in the first place.

And yet, if the Sixers can get a substantial return for Horford, who may still have lingering admiration from others around the league, it’s an avenue the Sixers would be foolish to ignore. An upgrade in fit without a drastic decrease in talent is, potentially, a no-brainer.

I’ve pitched a Horford-Chris Paul swap on this website, and I’m convinced CP3 would drastically elevate Philadelphia’s title odds. The Kings have Bogdan Bogdanovic, Dewayne Dedmon, and other valuable role players suspended in limbo. They were Horford suitors last summer.

Philadelphia hasn’t shied away from blockbuster trades in the (recent) past. Jimmy Butler and Tobias Harris were acquired in the same season, and Elton Brand swapped out two-thirds of the bench for good measure. It’s not terribly hard to picture Brand jumping on another opportunity to restructure the roster.

Next. Horford should be the sixth man. dark

It’s something to keep an eye on.