The Celtics’ offseason isn’t off to a terrific start.
Unsurprisingly, it appears All-Star guard Kyrie Irving will leave in free agency. GM Danny Ainge also reportedly took a swing for All-Star big man Anthony Davis, but was outbid by the Lakers.
But what transpired Tuesday may hurt them more than anything. Earlier in the day, it was reported that Al Horford would not opt in to his $30.1 million player option, but there was optimism the sides could strike a multi-year deal. Now it’s being reported that “the gulf is too great” between Boston and Horford’s camp and the veteran big will hit the market looking for a three- or four-year deal.
Horford’s stats won’t blow you away — 13.5 points, seven rebounds per game as a Celtic — but he’s arguably their most indispensable player. While Irving’s departure almost seemed inevitable during Boston’s playoff run, Horford possibly jumping ship is pretty jarring.
When the Sixers play Boston, Horford is tasked with guarding Joel Embiid or Ben Simmons. How many players in the league are capable of guarding both, let alone doing it at a high level? The answer is likely zero.
Ainge was right to hold on to Jayson Tatum in negotiations for Davis, but it’s going to be tough to build a championship-caliber roster with the pieces the Celtics have and what cap room they have left. They could make a deal for a veteran point guard like Memphis’ Mike Conley. Ainge still has an excellent trade piece in the Grizzlies’ protected 2020 first-round pick.
With all the uncertainty surrounding the Celtics, Raptors and Bucks, it would seem to make even more sense for Elton Brand to #RunItBack with Jimmy Butler and Tobias Harris. The Eastern Conference — and perhaps even the entire NBA — may be wide open.
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