The Boston Celtics project to be one of the top teams in the Eastern Conference–and because the east is no longer the ‘Least-ern Conference,’ the NBA as a whole–due to their league-best starting five.
Last season, Boston’s starters boasted the league’s best net rating, which was 12 points/100 possessions better than the second-best team, and the best defensive rating, while also ranking third in offensive rating per NBC Sports Boston’s Max Lederman. As long as Marcus Smart, Jaylen Brown, Jayson Tatum, Al Horford, and Robert Williams are playing together for the Cs, the sky is the limit and the glass ceiling is breakable in Boston.
With that said, though, just how long will that quintet stick together? Rumors of a Jaylen Brown trade for Kevin Durant dominated the rumor mill all summer, and though that appears to be the only situation in which the Celtics would deal No. 7, could those discussions have done enough damage to ruin the team-player relationship? A source says Brown is all in on the Boston Celtics long-term, so that doesn’t appear likely unless the team falters this season and the Georgia native wants to look for a team he could be the No. 1 option for.
Instead, it appears that Horford could be the first of the five to depart the Cs after this coming season. In a Twitter thread discussing a possible extension for the 36-year-old, Heavy’s Sean Deveney revealed that Horford might not have decided against retiring after the upcoming 2022-23 season:
Grant Williams could be the long-term replacement for Al Horford in the Boston Celtics starting five
There’s no doubt that losing Al Horford would sting for the Boston Celtics, who were able to piece things together for one season following his last departure from the franchise during 2019 free agency to join the Philadelphia 76ers before things fell apart at the seams. Horford proved to be an invaluable glue guy last season and shined in critical playoff showings against Milwaukee, Miami, and Golden State in the latter rounds of the 2022 NBA postseason.
With that said, losing Horford to retirement wouldn’t be the end of the world because his replacement has been slowly developing into one of the team’s best two-way contributors — that being fourth-year man Grant Williams, one of Danny Ainge’s last late-first round steals before stepping down as Celtics GM.
Williams could sign a $55 million extension, and may receive one before the start of the season. Needless to say, his value (and negotiation leverage) would skyrocket next offseason if Horford did sail off into the sunset.