John David Mercer- USA TODAY Sports Images

Celtics Free Agent Focus: Al Horford

Al Horford was mentioned in trade rumors at the deadline this past season, and everyone knows the Celtics need talent in the frontcourt along with some veteran leadership. Horford would provide both those things, but would he leave Atlanta to join the quickly ascending Celtics?

The Celtics signed Amir Johnson during the summer of 2015 and thought he was going to help them fix their deficiencies on the defensive end, but he didn't get into a groove until the end of the season, and then in the playoffs he did well, but not well enough to warrant a 12 million dollar contract in 2016. One player Boston could target with their cap room and 12 million saved from Amir Johnson is Hawks free agent big man Al Horford, a player that has the ability to play power forward and center, and is known for being one of the most dependable and steady players in the NBA.

Horford, 29, is from Puerto Plata, Dominican Republic. His father, Tito, was also a great basketball player who played for Louisiana and Miami, and he was also a second round pick in the 1988 NBA Draft. It didn't work out for Tito, but young Al was going to have more success than his father. In 2000, Tito, Al, and the Horford family moved to Lansing, Michigan, where Al would attend Grande Ledge High School in Grande Ledge, Michigan. 

Horford is the all-time leading scorer at Grande Ledge High School, accumulating 1,239 points over the course of his career. His best season came as a senior when he averaged 21 points, 13 rebounds, and five blocks per game. Horford was only 6'8 going into his senior year, but he continued to grow and is now 6'10, a two inch difference that is huge when it comes to playing in the NBA. Horford was recruited by Michigan, Michigan State, Ohio State, and Florida. He originally committed to Michigan, but he had a change of heart and decided to commit to Florida, a move that turned out to be brilliant in retrospect.

Horford got a decent amount of playing time as a freshman, appearing in 32 games. He averaged 22.8 minutes, 5.6 points, 6.5 rebounds, and 1.6 blocks per game. Considering he was just a true freshman, he didn't seem overwhelmed by the jump in speed from high school to Division One college basketball. His sophomore year was a big one for Horford and his Florida teammates, namely Joakim Noah and Corey Brewer. In 39 games, Horford averaged 25.9 minutes, 11.3 points, 7.6 rebounds, 2.0 assists, 1.0 steals, and 1.7 blocks per game, and he helped lead the Florida Gators to a National Championship win. 

His junior year was another year of progression for Horford. Florida played 39 games that season as they rumbled towards another National Title, and Horford was a big part of it. He averaged 27.8 minutes, 13.2 points, 9.5 rebounds, 2.2 assists, 0.7 steals, and 1.8 blocks. Horford also shot 61% from the field for the second year in a row, showing ability in the paint, and also featuring an outside shot that he makes regularly. After winning his second consecutive National Title, Horford joined Noah and Brewer and declared for the NBA Draft, a decision that turned out to be a brilliant one. 

Horford was the third overall pick by the Atlanta Hawks in the 2007 NBA Draft, and he's helped to turn around a Hawks franchise that struggled for long time before he arrived. Horford has appeared in 578 games for the Hawks, starting 574 of them as he's been entrenched as the Hawks center since 2007. He's averaged 14.3 points, 8.9 rebounds, 2.7 assists, 0.8 steals, 1.2 blocks, and he's shot 54% from the field during his nine year career. 

Horford is a four-time All Star, but his best season came in a year where he didn't make the team. In 2012-13, he averaged 17.4 points, 10.2 rebounds, 3.2 assists, 1.1 steals, 1.1 blocks, and he shot 54% from the field. Horford averaged the same exact amount of points the last two years (15.2), and with him reaching the age of 30 this upcoming week, Horford will most likely continue to score 15 points and pick up seven rebounds every night. 

If Boston does have interest, which some reports have stated, it wouldn't make sense to sign him to a max deal unless he was part of a package deal for a player like Kevin Durant. The Durant pipe dream isn't officially dead, but even if they can sign him, why would they want to give Horford a max deal when they know he's going to be a 15-7 player? He's pretty good defensively, but he should not be paid the max and Boston needs to avoid that scenario. 

Horford is one of the big-name, unrestricted free agents this offseason, but the best contract offer he's going to receive is from his current team, the Atlanta Hawks. Atlanta has Bird Rights so they can offer Horford more, and that is the only team Horford has known in his nine-year career. The only way he leaves there is to join a legitimate contender (Spurs) because if the money is the same (actually less from another team) he'll most likely return to the Hawks. If he's willing to take a three year deal in the 45-50 million dollar range, then Danny Ainge might be interested, but locking into a long-term max contract with a 30-year old big man is too much of a gamble for this franchise that has a chance to build a special team, assuming they pickup the right players. 

College Statistics Provided by Sports-Reference.com/Al Horford

NBA Statistics Provided by Basketball Reference.com/Al Horford

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