Thunder

How Much Trade Value Does Horford Have?

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When the Oklahoma City Thunder acquired Al Horford back in December, it was a deal that should have been the same as hundreds we have seen before– a rebuilding team taking on a terrible contract in exchange for draft capital.

The Thunder got their draft capital, in the form of a 2020 second-round pick (Théo Maledon) and a 2025 first-round pick. Horford, however, has proven to be just as valuable in the short term as those picks will be in the long term.

He is a five-time All-Star, after all.

At first glance, his numbers don’t jump out as anything special. Still, he is proving to be a solid role player still capable of having All-Star-level games, now and then.

The Thunder should be a lottery team this year and are still planning for the future. Can they flip Horford in a bid to further improve on their young core?

Current Trade Value

Some fans will only remember the 76ers’ version of Horford from last season. That’s bound to leave some doubt as to whether he can still play at a high level.

The fit in Philadelphia was never right, however. It felt like they acquired Horford strictly so that Embiid did not have to play against him. Unfortunately for them, prying him away from Boston didn’t help as they were still swept in the first round of the playoffs by the C’s.

Horford is currently averaging 14.6 points, 6.9 rebounds and 3.7 assists per game. Those are by no means All-Star numbers, but they could definitely help out a contender. One sign that should encourage teams competing at the top is his best games are often against championship contenders. He’s impressed against the Lakers, Bucks and Nets, but his best performance came in a 17-point comeback win over the Phoenix Suns, as he finished with 21 points, 11 rebounds and three steals.

Increasing Horford’s Value

Horford may have proven his worth on a poor team, but for a contending squad to absorb that contract, they will want to see more from the 14-year vet.

A simple solution? Give him more minutes.

Horford ranks fourth on the team in minutes per game, behind the three-headed young core of Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Luguentz Dort and Darius Bazley.

Horford’s 28.3 minutes per game, however, are a career low, despite having the second-highest usage rate of his career. They aren’t expected to win many games, so OKC will want to use games to develop their young core. The offense is going to run through Shai, as it should. At Horford’s current usage rate — if OKC can find more minutes for him — his numbers would likely also improve.

Potential Suitors

The size of Horford’s contract means it will almost certainly require a multiple-team trade to move him. Three years and $81 million for a 34-year-old is a big commitment, particularly for a contender. The Thunder have enough picks, one or two of which they could throw in to sweeten a potential deal. The Toronto Raptors are certainly in need of a big man, as Aron Baynes has disappointed thus far.

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Another team that lacks a true floor-spacer and interior presence is Horford’s former team, the Boston Celtics. Both teams are expecting to make a playoff run, and Horford’s veteran experience could prove invaluable. Adding to the tantalizing idea of a Beantown reunion is the largest traded-player exception in NBA history ($28.5 million). The Celtics would need to clear some space to use all of it, though, as they’re roughly $21 million under the hard cap.

While there is sure to be some trade interest, Oklahoma City might want to head in a different direction. Blake Griffin and the Detroit Pistons are due to part ways soon, as they have mutually decided to sit the six-time All-Star while they figure out his future. The Pistons, too, are clearly in rebuild mode and arguably further behind in the process than the Thunder.

Could the Thunder ask for Blake Griffin and yet another pick for Al Horford and some salary filler? If there’s anyone that can find a deal, it’s Sam Presti.

Countdown To The Deadline

The Thunder are once again, as they were last season, exceeding expectations at this point in the season. They are 12th in the West, which doesn’t make great reading, but they are just 2.5 games out of the play-in tournament. In a season where they should have been the worst team in basketball, they are putting others on notice to get excited about the future.

That said, this is still the beginning of a rebuild. Horford is a veteran, one that can help a contender, but his timeline simply doesn’t align with the young core. Moving him now, in exchange for an expiring contract and a young piece would be the ideal move for OKC.

The question is, is anyone willing to absorb his contract? Until the March 25th trade deadline, that question remains the highest in the minds of Thunder fans.

Follow us on Twitter @ThunderLead for the latest Thunder news and insight. 

About Eshan Arya

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