There’s been so much hand-wringing since the season ended about Marcus Smart’s restricted free agency, the potential of a Terry Rozier trade, the uncertainty of Kyrie Irving, the draft, and just a general fog of what’s next for these Celtics. Those are all legitimate concerns, but there’s been something that’s been gnawing at me since Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals: what about Al?
Let’s review some of the narratives around the Celtics’ most consistent player under Brad Stevens’ tenure. Is Al Horford worth the money? Absolutely. He’s proven that time and time again over the last two playoff runs. With his underwhelming counting stats, does Al Horford make his teammates better? On the court, the Celtics boasted a stingy 103.0 DefRtg in the playoffs. Without Al, that ballooned to 109.1. On offense, Boston had a 107.2 OffRtg. No Al and that plummets to 99.4. His usage rate was only 18.6% during the regular season, but he had the highest plus-minus at +4.8.
Here’s the catch. Al Horford is 32-year-old. With only two years left on his four-year deal, the five-time All Star is on the back nine of his prime. While his game seems ageless and he’s found ways to conserve energy for the post-season, Mr. Irreplaceable will need to be replaced (or at least backed up) soon. We’ve seen Danny Ainge search for unicorn adjacent players to act as Horford Lite before. Kelly Olynyk served as a capable Horford proxy in his final season in green. Marcus Morris flexed his defensive versatility in the...