A few days ago, it was reported that Al Horford was probably not going to re-sign with the Boston Celtics after declining his player option, and would instead sign a long-term deal with a team willing to give him more years than the Celtics. Soon, speculation arose that there was already a team who had committed to Horford, and that his ending talks with the Celtics was done in acknowledgement that another team had already pledged a deal to him. Our own Lucas Hann suggested that team was the LA Clippers, using information that was reported along with some “conspiracy theorizing” to draw a scenario moving Al to the Clippers.
Well, three days later, the man who originally broke the news of Horford leaving, Steve Bulpett of the Boston Herald, has named the Clippers as one of two likely candidates to be that “mystery team”, along with the Dallas Mavericks. Those are the two teams he’s been “hearing”, and his personal opinion is that the Clippers are more likely. The Mavs have certainly been linked to Horford too, but they have denied the rumors, per Marc Stein and Tim McMahon. Therefore, as of right now, it seems that Lucas’ hunch may have been correct (shocking as that is, I know).
The two teams I've been hearing from last Monday for Al Horford are the Clippers and Dallas. Still think the Clips make the most sense, especially if they can land Kawhi Leonard. Dallas might be shaky on a fourth year for Al, who turned 33 earlier this month.— Steve Bulpett (@SteveBHoop) June 22, 2019
This is a big deal. Not only is Horford one of the best free agents on the market, a proven playoff competitor who can help a team win games at the highest levels, but he also only makes sense for the Clippers in the context of a Kawhi Leonard signing. As good as Al is, he’s not good enough to be the best player on a title team, even on such a deep, talented squad as the Clippers. He’s much better suited to be the second banana, and he’d be able to fill that role on the Clips if they landed Kawhi. The Clippers would only sign Horford to a four year, near-max deal if they are planning on winning a championship in the next year or two — and that only looks to be happening with Kawhi. So, if the Clippers have (theoretically) promised Horford a four year deal worth over $100 million, that means they’re still very confident in Kawhi coming. This is extremely newsworthy, as most recent reports have them neck-and-neck with the Raptors for Kawhi’s services, with some real information tilting him towards Toronto.
It’s still quite possible the Mavs are the mystery team. They’ve been linked to Horford more heavily in the past couple days than any other team, and are denying the connection so strongly that it only implicates them further. However, they already have a “star” big man in Kristaps Porzingis, and Horford fits their timeline much less cleanly than he does the Clippers’. The Mavs were bad last year, and while they’ll be better this year, their best players are young and lack playoff experience. It just doesn’t make a ton of sense for them to sign Horford as a contender-swinging free agent when they aren’t close to that level yet.
The other possibility is that neither the Clips nor the Mavs are the team (Lakers?), but Bulpett is extremely plugged in, and no other team has been mentioned as much as those two. If Horford really is coming to the Clippers, it would make sense that Kawhi will be on his way as well. Fingers crossed.