NBA rumors: Mavericks the favorites to sign Al Horford in free agency

NBA rumors: Mavericks the favorites to sign Al Horford in free agency

It appears Al Horford's time with the Celtics is coming to an end, and that could make things even worse for the injury-depleted Warriors.

The big man opted out of the final year of his contract earlier this week, reportedly with the intention of signing a multi-year deal in Boston.

But things went south Tuesday:

And the Warriors can't be happy with where the five-time All-Star is rumored to end up.

On Wednesday, league sources told Kevin O'Connor of The Ringer that the Mavericks are considered the favorites to sign Horford in free agency.

Golden State wouldn't be happy with that result because you would then have to add Dallas to the long list of teams who have a legitimate shot at making the playoffs in the Western Conference.

The Mavs didn't make the postseason in 2019, but a trio of Luka Doncic, Kristaps Porzingis and Horford would certainly have playoff expectations.

The Lakers added superstar Anthony Davis, might be able to add a third All-Star in free agency and certainly are expecting to get back to the playoffs for the first time since 2013.

The Kings have a terrific young core -- plus lots of cap space -- and will be picked by some pundits to end their 13-year postseason drought.

While it's obviously way too early to tell which 2019 playoff teams might fall out of contention, some people are already speculating that the Warriors could legitimately miss the playoffs next season.

The main rationale is that even if Kevin Durant and Klay Thompson re-sign, they might be sidelined the entire campaign.

We have to see what happens in the coming weeks before speculating any further. But it seems foolish to think a team with Steph Curry and Draymond Green will end up in the lottery.

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And you should not expect owner Joe Lacob and the rest of the front office to take their foot off the gas pedal as the Dubs move into the Chase Center.

Having said that, Horford in Dallas would make things that much more challenging.

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NBA power rankings: Western Conference standings by top four players

NBA power rankings: Western Conference standings by top four players

Editor's note: Grant Liffmann (@grantliffmann) is the co-host of Warriors Outsiders, which airs on NBC Sports Bay Area 90 minutes before each home game and 60 minutes after every game. Each week, Grant will drop his Outsider Observation on the state of the Dubs.

The NBA landscape was completely altered this summer with many teams loading up on star power, in an effort to make a run for a suddenly wide-open NBA title. Following the league's talent reshuffling, the Western Conference is deeper than ever, and with Kevin Durant leaving the Warriors to head to the Brooklyn Nets, there is no clear-cut favorite to win the conference.

To illustrate how talented the West is, I will rank all the teams in the conference by their four best players.

This list does not show how I'd rank each team in the standings. Some teams are built on depth rather than star power (i.e. Denver), while others have question marks about their bench (i.e. Golden State). Also, for the sake of this exercise, let us assume all players are completely healthy.

Opinions definitely will vary on the order of this list, and the players I selected to represent each team. So what do you think?

Click to see Outsider's rankings of top quartets in Western Conference

NBA rumors: Team USA considering D'Angelo Russell as World Cup replacement

NBA rumors: Team USA considering D'Angelo Russell as World Cup replacement

After playing in five straight NBA Finals, Steph Curry and Draymond Green have a ton of extra miles on their legs, and Klay Thompson is recovering from surgery on his torn left ACL.

But Warriors newcomer D'Angelo Russell doesn't have the same wear and tear, which is why he could find himself playing for Team USA in the FIBA World Cup later this summer.

The Athletic's Joe Vardon reported Monday that Team USA is considering adding Russell as a replacement on the roster that will compete in China.

Russell is under consideration because a plethora of marquee stars have withdrawn from the competition in recent days to focus on the 2019-20 NBA season.

On Monday alone, Philadelphia 76ers forward Tobias Harris and No. 1 overall draft pick Zion Williamson pulled out of the event. Anthony Davis, James Harden, Bradley Beal, C.J. McCollum and Eric Gordon also have withdrawn in recent days. Vardon reported Monday that Damian Lillard and Kevin Love are expected to make their decisions in the coming days.

Russell had a breakout 2018-19 season with the Brooklyn Nets and earned his first All-Star Game selection. In 81 games, the former No. 2 overall draft pick averaged 21.1 points and 7.0 assists in 30.2 minutes.

The Warriors acquired Russell earlier in July as part of the sign-and-trade deal that sent Kevin Durant to the Nets.

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While the Warriors probably would prefer if Russell rested and got ready for his first season with the team, experiencing the Team USA environment and playing in high-level competition could be beneficial for the 23-year-old. Getting a taste of winning can't hurt, either.