When Al Horford signed his 4-year max contract over the offseason, it came with high expectations. While it is no secret that Horford’s fit in Philly has not been ideal, the slate is clean as the season is set to resume. As was experimented with before the shutdown, Horford is expected to come off the bench when play returns. This is a new opportunity for Al and he has a chance to make an impact and turn the narrative of what he brings to the team.
First off, Al Horford deserves a lot of credit for how he has handled the situation this year. The 5 time NBA all-star has played Center at a high-level for nearly all of his career, yet it was seen as a lock that he would be able to transition to playing PF next to Joel Embiid. This transition was not as seamless as expected and Horford is having one of the worst years of his career in nearly every statistical category. The fit next to Joel Embiid has been awkward at best and it has been frustrating for everyone that has watched the Sixers this year. Despite this, Horford has handled himself with the utmost professionalism in and out of the locker room.
Throughout the disappointing season where he has been asked to greatly alter his playing style, all Big Al has done was put his head down and work. So with every corner 3 that Horford has unfortunately been forced to chuck up, he never made a negative comment even while being under the most media scrutiny of his career. This professionalism was a large reason that Al was brought in. While he is not the most vocal guy, Horford leads by example in a way that was not seen on the otherwise young roster prior to the signing.
$109 million is much more than any team would plan to pay for a backup Center, but it should be noted how valuable that spot is. Not having a reliable backup center is ultimately what knocked the Sixers out of the playoffs last year in the series against the Raptors. That ball bouncing on the rim after the corner shot from Kawhi still serves as nightmare fuel, but it may have been avoided altogether if personnel were different. While Embiid played as much as his body could in the playoffs, Greg Monroe and Boban Marjanovic were the only relief when JoJo was forced to take a seat.
In games 1 and 2 against the Raptors, Boban played just under 12 minutes and registered minus-22 during his time on the court. In the Sixers losses in games 4 and 5, Greg Monroe registered a minus-25 in just 16 total minutes of play. Throughout the series, the Sixers outscored the Raptors by 21 points per 100 possessions when Embiid was on the floor and were outscored by the Raptors by 46 points per 100 possessions when Embiid was on the bench. This night and day difference is a major reason for the Horford signing, and if Al can make an impact in his limited minutes that is a major difference-maker for how far the Sixers can go.
The Sixers have benefited from this break more than any other team in the league. The time off gave Simmons and Embiid a chance to get healthy and for the team to hit the reset button on what has been an otherwise disappointing season. If Al Horford can play to the level that he has proven capable in the past in his limited minutes, he provides major value to the team for the upcoming playoff stretch. The deal has not worked out as was expected with Horford, but if he plays the role an helps the team moving forward the Sixers should be content with that.
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