The Boston Celtics need to start thinking about life after Al Horford
This season is going to be vitally important for the Boston Celtics for a number of reasons. This is the culmination of their rebuild, and they are expected to dominate the East. With this team, however, there is a lot more going on.
The Celtics have done a masterful job of making sure they have as many options as possible, and that means they can end up going in a lot of different directions. One thing the Celtics have to be anticipating is the eventual loss of Al Horford.
Right now, he is a top player on this team, with one of the best two way impacts in the entire NBA. He is a true part of the identity of this team, and that will stay the same for this season.
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The reality of the situation is that the Celtics will not want to pay Horford too much beyond this contract, and even if he had the best season of his career, the Celtics have to anticipate his eventual downfall.
The Celtics are always keeping the future in mind, and Horford’s is limited. He is a truly crucial part of this current core and what this team wants to do. Down the line, however, when Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown are ready to be the to players on this team, Horford will not be able to have that same impact.
This season, the Celtics will be in a great position to evaluate potential Horford replacements. Keep in mind, it is not about finding the player that can replace the impact Horford has. Horford has one of the most unique impacts in the NBA, and you cannot expect to get that out of anyone.
The Celtics will have to adapt, but they currently have options they will be evaluating this season, to see who can be a part of the future of this front court. The Celtics clearly have more young talent with their wings and ball handlers, but they have a lot to work with in the front court.
Robert Williams is probably the most intriguing. His physical upside is incredible, and the defensive versatility is the most important thing. The Celtics will be prioritizing defense with their front court, because they have enough offense everywhere else.
Williams have the highest defenisve upside, and he has the talent to be starting in the future for the Celtics. He has a lot of work to do, but if he starts establishing defenisve trust right now, the Celtics will keep him around long enough to be that candidate to replace Horford in the lineup.
Daniel Theis is the most likely to be able to take over right now. He has proven that he can have an impact on both ends, and probably offers the closest thing to what Horford does. The problem is that his shooting is no where near what Horford’s is, his passing is not nearly as dynamic. But, the defense is there and Theis is an option who can defend the paint and switch everywhere.
Again, he has to improve in so many different ways to get close to Horford, but the Celtics can trust him on both ends of the floor, and he is the only backup front court player on this roster you can say that about.
This could also be a make or break season for Guerschon Yabusele and Semi Ojeleye. We have already seen how good Ojeleye can be on defense, and everyone is just waiting for Yabusele to finally break out.
None of these options are sure things, and chances are the front court beyond the Horford years will have to feature at least one big that is stronger than any of them, but they still have time to grow.
The Celtics do so much with Horford, and part of the valuation is going to be seeing how the rest of the roster will need to adjust when his impact is gone. The Celtics realize that no one is going to have the same impact of Horford, but Brad Stevens will still find a way to get what he needs from the front court players at his disposal.
Having these guys learn behind Horford will also make a big difference. They will see the work he puts in and all the little things he does on the court. If they can bring that kind of stability and mentality, there will be a place for them in the future, even if they will never be as effective as Horford.