Celtics Off-Season Profiles: Al Horford
BOSTON - Throughout the 2018-19 Boston Celtics season, there was no shortageof tumult between the staggered slumps of Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown, the unending controversy from Kyrie Irving, and the quest for improvement by Gordon Hayward. The team never found their footing last season, but there was still one constant that helped anchor the team and show the other players guidance and leadership: Al Horford, the rock and veteran presence for the Celtics who has become one of the most valuable assets on the roster.
Horford has now officially been a member of the Celtics for three full seasons and played in 68 of the team's 82 games this past year. Over the course of the season, Horford recorded his best field goal shooting percentage since the 2014-15 season with a .535 rate. He averaged 13.6 points per game, 6.7 rebounds per game, and 4.2 assists per game. His total plus/minus for the season was 4.8. which was easily the highest of his career. The closest he came was in the 2010-11 season when he put up a 4.4 plus/minus. It just shows how steady Horford was for the entire year and how much the Celtics relied on him.
During the two post-season series the Celtics played, Horford upped his numbers to 13.9 points per game, 9.0 rebounds per game, and 4.4 assists per game. Horford is thirty-three years old, but he is still playing solid basketball, which is why I think it's in the best interest of Boston to retain his talents.
If the Celtics want to build around their young core or a potential marquee free agent, Horford is one of the best pieces to keep involved. There's a thirty million dollar player option for Horford next season that he could opt into, but he could also opt out to restructure his contract with the team. However, there is also the danger that Horford could test free agency. It's ultimately up to Horford, but Danny Ainge said that he wants to prioritize the retention of Boston's big man.
If the Celtics can only have one between Irving, Horford, and Aron Baynes, their three potential upcoming free agents, I'd lean towards Horford with the attempt of building around a new star coming to Boston. Obviously, if Kyrie is the only potential star that Boston can land, then they should try to keep both, but if it comes down to it, Horford makes more sense in the short term, while Kyrie is more of a wild card.
Image via Flickr / Keith Allison