Philadelphia 76ers: How to properly utilize Al Horford

Al Horford | Philadelphia 76ers (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images)
Al Horford | Philadelphia 76ers (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images) /

In the Philadelphia 76ers’ final game before the All-Star break, Brett Brown moved Al Horford to the bench. Horford had a modest performance, but the team played well and he still played the fourth most minutes on the team in the sixth man role.

Last offseason when the Philadelphia 76ers signed Al Horford, there was a sigh of relief. Horford always played well against Joel Embiid and he was a veteran leader on the rival Boston Celtics. The signing was a positive to the Sixers, as well as a negative to the Celtics. Yet, the hype around the signing seemed more focused on Horford’s play against the Sixers in years past, and not as much on his fit with an already big lineup in Philadelphia.

In a league that is going away from the big centers who play in the post, the Sixers now had two with Embiid and Horford. Both players can shoot the three and play outside the paint, but that is not the best versions of their game. Combine the two big men with a point guard who cannot, or rather will not, shoot the ball and excels at driving to the hoop and you get a massive spacing problem.

So how can the Sixers, with the roster currently constructed, properly utilize Horford for the rest of the regular season and the playoffs?

The first step, as Brett Brown has finally realized, is moving Horford to the bench. In the first half of Tuesday’s game against the Los Angeles Clippers, Embiid and Horford were never on the floor at the same time. Horford played the backup center role and the Sixers played a smaller lineup.

As we have seen, this team plays more up-tempo when Embiid is on the bench and Simmons and Horford have played well in those periods of game time. Moving Horford to the bench allows Embiid to be the first player substituted and helps manage his playing time early in games. This ensures he will be better conditioned and ready to dominate late in games and ideally late into the season.

Barring a player addition via the buyout market, the players on this team will be those on the playoff roster. Embiid, Horford and Simmons will all be on the floor together at points and Brown needs to figure out how to create space. Tobias Harris and Josh Richardson can assist with this task by knocking down a higher percentage of their three-pointers.

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Right now, though, a larger sample size is needed with Horford coming off the bench and hopefully it will continue.