The grass, as it turns out, was not greener on the other side for either party. Thanks to the first major move of the “Brad Stevens: General manager” era, Horford and the Boston Celtics have a chance to re-ignite their relationship.
It is a move that won’t necessarily define Boston’s off season, but one that will definitely have a positive impact.
Recent years have been a revolving door of big men a the four and five spot for the Celtics. These positions have produced varied results since the departure of Kevin Garnett, whether it be during Boston’s lean years or a lack of significant depth during Horford’s first stint with the team.
Entering his 15th season in 2021-22, it’s not beyond reason to expect Horford to average the 13.5 points and 7 rebounds he did during his first go-around with the Celtics. More importantly, there will be an expectation of leadership, mentoring, and contribution, as a starter or otherwise.
If the roster shakes out as it is now in the frontcourt, there will be plenty of big men for Horford to dispense wisdom to.
Boston Celtics: The Frontcourt
This upcoming season is still barely visible in the future, but I’m looking forward to Horford taking younger players under his wing, beginning with Robert Williams III.
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Horford brings insight and experience that he can share with the rising star. Tristan Thompson brought some of that — and could continue to do so, if still on the roster — and it will be exciting for Horford to only add to that wisdom. (Though not sure how much he can do regarding the health of Williams, though perhaps he has an exercise/stretching/health regiment he can share).
More in line with the position Horford plays, the veteran’s presence should benefit the growth of Grant Williams or Semi Ojeleye. There is an “or” there because it’s time for Boston to move on from one of these players. Both have found ways to contribute during their time with the Celtics, albeit not consistently. With the arrival of Horford, now would be a good time to move on.
Keeping Williams over Ojeleye might be the better choice, given that he is younger and is a better shooter. Williams has the potential for a higher ceiling and can be a valuable contributor on this team, especially under Horford’s tutelage. Having someone with a similar style of play show Williams the ropes could pay immediate dividends.
Showing the Boston Celtics his worth
After disappointing with the Philadelphia 76ers, Horford found a much better fit for the Oklahoma City Thunder. This happened notably in the mentorship role as Horford did not play the last few months as the Thunder focused on their young players. But while some veterans might have pouted or angled to be released, Horford stuck around his teammates and no doubt shared his knowledge.
Horford did average 14.2 points in the 28 games he played, all starts.
Bringing that production as a starter or off the bench for Boston, depending on how the roster shapes up, will be nice. Even if he doesn’t quite reach that level, Horford is the veteran presence Boston so desperately needed the last couple of years. He won’t be the deciding factor as to whether this team takes the leap to the next level, but having Horford back on this team will bring back something sorely lacking last season: a stabilizing force and a locker room leader.