Things haven’t gone super smoothly for Al Horford since he inked a major four-year deal with the Philadelphia 76ers over the offseason. Horford has struggled to find his rhythm with his new team, and he has also struggled to jell with Philadelphia’s two young All-Stars Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons.
The main issue is that Horford’s skill set on the offensive end is redundant with Embiid and Simmons. Horford is at his best when he’s operating either from the elbow or the low block. He is very comfortable with creating good looks for himself and others from these areas. The problem with that is Embiid and Simmons are also both most comfortable in these areas, especially on the low block, where Embiid does a fair share of his damage, and where Simmons is often relegated as a result of his inability to space the floor with his shot. Thus, Horford has been forced to spend a lot of time on the perimeter, where he’s limited, and not especially effective. Horford himself has acknowledged his integration issues.
“It’s not as good as I want to be,” Horford said of his fit in December. “I still haven’t been able to find my rhythm with the team… I’m out [there] for the team and doing what I can to help us. But offensively, I’m very limited with the things that I can do. So I can’t control that stuff… So all I have to do is make sure I’m there for the team, trying to do everything I can to help us win.”
76ers coach Brett Brown recently moved Horford to the bench in order to try to maximize all of the talent on the team, but such a move may only be a short-term solution for the current campaign, as the Sixers certainly didn’t sign Horford to a nine-figure deal with the intention of him filling a reserve role. Ultimately, they will have to find a way to better utilize his abilities, or look to move on from the veteran forward. According to Jeff Zillgitt of USA Today Sports, moving on from Horford is something that the Sixers will indeed consider over the offseason, especially if they can acquire some much-needed shooting in return.
Though the Sixers did not try to move Horford at the trade deadline, that might be a possibility in the off-season – if they can send that contract to another team and get shooting in return – a person with knowledge of the situation told USA TODAY Sports. The person requested anonymity because he was not authorized to speak about Philadelphia’s plans.
The problem for Philadelphia is that finding a trade partner for Horford will be easier said than done, especially if the team is looking to secure some shooting in return. Floor-spacing is at a premium in the NBA today, while there isn’t much of a market for traditional big men on the wrong side of 30 years old (Horford is 33), especially ones that still have three years and over $80 million remaining on their current contract. If the Sixers had signed Horford to a two-year deal, moving on after a single season would have been much easier. Instead, they signed him to a four-year deal, and now there’s almost no chance that they’ll get good value in return in a deal even if they are able to find an interested suitor. The Sixers might potentially even have to throw in another asset to get another franchise to take on the remainder of Horford’s deal.
What makes the situation even tougher for the Sixers to swallow is the fact that they lost several capable floor-spacers — J.J. Redick, Robert Covington, Dario Saric, and Landry Shamet — over the past couple of seasons in the process of building their roster as currently constructed; a roster that is short on shooting.
Sure, there’s still a chance that Horford will get in a groove and help the Sixers go on a deep playoff run this season, but his play so far in Philadelphia hasn’t provided much reason to believe that will happen, and it’s not like he’s going to get any younger. Horford’s fit with the Sixers was questionable to begin with when the team lured him away from Boston last summer. Now, it seems as though his contract is one that Philadelphia’s front office has quickly come to regret, and one that won’t be easy to unload.