As the Boston Celtics continue strengthening their roster for the long term, there is one thing they must address soon: should they move Al Horford to the bench after this season?
The 15-year veteran brought the Celtics plenty of success since his first arrival in 2016 and return in 2021. His time so far includes three conference finals appearances, an All-Star appearance in 2018, and making the NBA Finals in 2022.
Horford did this while averaging 12 points, seven rebounds, four assists, and a block while playing over 30 minutes of action per game. His consistency, ability to stretch the floor, and versatility in defending opposing star players allowed him to be one of Boston’s most important players.
However, it is clear that Horford is statistically on the decline this season at age 36. He is currently averaging a career-low 9.5 points, 6.3 rebounds, 2.7 assists, and a block for 30 minutes a night. Despite this, his efficiency remains as effective as ever, shooting 49 percent shooting from the field and 44 percent from beyond the arc.
Even as his stats decrease, this does not mean Horford is worsening the team performance when he is on the court. According to Basketball Reference, the Celtics have a +7.7 differential when he is in the game as it goes down to a +2.3 differential when he goes to the bench. Among starters, he has the best offensive rating with 131 as his defensive rating of 112 is second to Jayson Tatum’s 111.
It helps Boston that Horford will continue to stick around considering he signed a two-year, $19.5 million extension earlier in the season, which will last until after the 2024-25 season when he will be 39.
The Boston Celtics and Al Horford are in a good position either way
The Celtics keeping Horford in the starting lineup next season wouldn’t be a surprise. His strong basketball IQ and chemistry with teammates starting in the game strengthens the team’s skillset in winning games in convincing fashion.
If Boston decides to have Horford come off the bench next year, not only will it grant more opportunities for Grant Williams and the younger players in the front court, but it will also allow Horford to preserve his health as he gets older.
Whether or not the Boston Celtics keep Horford as a starter or have him come off the bench next season, there is no doubt that he will remain crucial to the team’s aspirations for title contention as he enters the twilight years of his amazing career.