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NBA Trade Deadline: Is Al Horford Available?

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Horford is the hard-to-move piece the Sixers would have to part with in a major deadline move.

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Los Angeles Lakers v Philadelphia 76ers Photo by Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE via Getty Images

According to The Ringer’s Kevin O’Connor, the Philadelphia 76ers are among teams interested in the Oklahoma City Thunder’s Danilo Gallinari. The former Clipper forward is having a strong year in OKC, averaging 19 points, 6 rebounds, and 2 assists while shooting 41% from deep.

That doesn’t seem super relevant to the Clippers, as Gallinari isn’t a potential deadline target for L.A. So why am I talking about it?

Philadelphia’s roster construction and cap sheet are pretty strange—and it happens to be set up that if the Sixers are seriously interested in acquiring a player like Gallinari, who makes $21M this season, they almost certainly have to be shopping either Tobias Harris or Al Horford. The other possible salary combinations would have to include Joel Embiid, Josh Richardson, and/or Ben Simmons, deals which wouldn’t make sense on any number of levels.

Considering Philadelphia’s issues this season with shooting and floor-spacing, including the offensive awkwardness when Simmons, Horford, and Joel Embiid share the floor, any Sixers interest in Gallinari almost certainly means that they are looking for ways to move Horford for a more perimeter-oriented option at power forward. There’s a problem, though: Philly just gave Horford a 4-year, $109M contract in free agency, a massive deal with a duration that gives most teams pause for a 33-year-old player. There’s no reason a younger, building team like Oklahoma City would take on a deal like that.

That’s where the Clippers could have an opportunity here. There’s likely no deal to be made for the Sixers if they can’t find a team who is willing to absorb Horford’s deal, and the Clippers might be able to make a trade work without losing too much. Horford can play at power forward or center, giving the Clippers both the upgraded starting power forward they’re seeking and a trustworthy option to close games at center who can space the floor and provide strong defense.

What would a deal look like? Something like this:

It’s not ideal (though what realistic, mutually beneficial trade is), but adding Horford would help the Clippers in their efforts to win a championship this year, and if locker room and on-court struggles have left the front office questioning whether or not they want to make a major investment in Montrezl Harrell next summer, this could be a chance to get a talent upgrade without losing a prospect or first-round pick.

This deal would leave the Clippers slightly short-handed in a couple of areas: Horford is slotting in as the starting PF and the team’s second option at center, and while JaMychal Green can provide depth at both positions, there’s no way around the reality that the team would be giving up three PF/Cs and only bringing one in. It’s possible that Nerlens Noel could move in this deal with Oklahoma City adding Harrell as their backup center, but the Clippers may also need to look into buyout candidates to interior depth. It’s also likely that the Clippers will play Kawhi Leonard at power forward a lot in the playoffs, but losing both Harkless and McGruder leaves the Clippers a bit weak on the wings... though given McGruder’s play this season, it would not be hard to find an upgrade at backup small forward.