Despite the return of Rajon Rondo, the addition of Marcus Smart and James Young through the draft and the fast growth of Jared Sullinger, Kelly Olynyk and Avery Bradley, the Celtics are still just one or two All-Stars away from making even louder noise in the Eastern Conference. Sitting at a current 3-3 record, the Celtics are already looking better than a 25-win team last season. In my opinion, the Celtics look like they can make a surprise playoff run with the roster they already have, but I think they still are one true center away from being a guaranteed playoff team this season. Al Horford of the Atlanta Hawks might be just the answer for the Celtics.
According to a source, the Atlanta Hawks were quietly shopping Al Horford last season and were looking to acquire a first-round pick in a potential package deal. The Hawks are under new ownership after another stupid racist scandal (at least they owned up to it) and it sounds like they have no intentions of resigning Al Horford after his contract expires after next season. Horford is owed $24 million over the next two seasons, making his contract one of the most attractive chips on the trade market. On the downside, his has missed 132 games over the last 3 seasons, including most of last season with a torn pectoral muscle.
At 28 years old, Horford is already a 2-time All-Star, and pending on the asking price for the Hawks, will be a great complement next to the floor-stretching Kelly Olynyk and a perfect pick-and-roll partner for Rajon Rondo. Bringing Al Horford to the Celtics could possibly make Boston an attractive destination for maybe even a 3rd All-Star that we can make a championship run. Even if the 3rd All-Star isn’t in place in the immediate future, Horford’s reliable offensive production in Boston’s offense, Jeff Green could actually be that 3rd option if he continues to produce the way he has so far this season.
Here comes the next question, how can the Celtics pry Horford from the Hawks? Atlanta could begin their rebuilding process sooner rather than later. The best way to start over, of course, is to swap a franchise player for draft picks, cap space and talented young assets. The Celtics meet all of those standards. Between now and 2018, the Celtics own an embarrassment amount of draft picks at their disposal. Those are golden assets with escalating value. As the salary cap rises, the rookie-scale contracts will remain the exactly the same and that is something not to pass up. If Danny Ainge is going to pull off a trade to lure in Al Horford from Atlanta, he will have to give up the ballpark range of two draft picks, one of the young talented players and one expiring contract to at least grab the attention of Danny Ferry on the other end.
Al Horford isn’t going to make the Celtics a championship team by himself, but he will make them better on both ends of the court and a guaranteed playoff team in a weak Eastern Conference. He could clear up Boston’s murky future quite a bit. I can’t say for sure that the moronic Rajon Rondo trade rumors will completely disappear, but it will get quieter if Horford ends up in a Celtics uniform. Acquiring Horford from the Hawks will fast accelerate the rebuilding process for the Celtics and it’s an opportunity worth exploring.