Al Horford is about to enter his sixth season with the Boston Celtics within the fall of 2023.
Horford, now 37 years outdated, is getting into the twilight of his NBA profession. Final 12 months, he averaged beneath 10 factors per recreation for the primary time as a professional, scoring 9.8 in every contest. Two years in the past, he rejoined the Celtics through commerce in July of 2021, followers had been not sure of what to anticipate from the growing older star. They had been pleasantly shocked when the five-time All-Star continued to be regular as ever for the Cs.
The staple of the 16-year NBA vet’s time in Boston has been staff success. He and the Celtics have didn’t make it previous the second-round of the playoffs simply as soon as throughout his cut up tenure. In fact, there was a two-year hole between Horford’s third and fourth campaigns with the Cs, after he skipped city to affix the Philadelphia 76ers in the summertime of 2019. Although he hasn’t ever needed to be the primary man with the Cs, the massive man has been integral a part of Boston’s continued profitable custom. He’s supplied nice assist to the group’s new pillars — Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown — in addition to different stars who’ve come by way of TD Backyard like Kyrie Irving and Isaiah Thomas by doing no matter is requested of him.
Whether or not it’s been tough-nosed protection, his capacity to sink the three, or the occasional submit up, No. 42 has achieved no matter’s been requested of him in Boston.
However, he’s not going to have the ability to do that eternally, proper?
As he continues to inch in the direction of retirement, the query of “who would be the Horford successor?” has been requested by followers and media members loads of instances, throughout the huge man’s second stint with the Celtics.
Nicely, they might lastly have their reply.
Simply earlier than the 2023 NBA Draft again in June, it was reported that the Celtics had been buying Washington Wizards middle Kristaps Porzingis as a part of a three-team commerce. Shortly after the information broke, it was introduced that Boston had inked Porzingis to a two-year contract extension value $60 million, which runs by way of the top of the 2025-26 NBA season.
Horford’s two-year extension can have expired by then and even when he can play at age 40, it’s uncertain that he’ll nonetheless be getting vital rotation minutes.
Fortunately for the Celtics, Porzingis’s strengths mirror these of Horford, and may assist to fill the void left when he ultimately retires or strikes on.
Very similar to the elder statesman, Porzingis is ready to be a dependable choice from three-point vary. For his profession, he’s knocked down 35.9% of his makes an attempt from lengthy distance, and is coming off of his second-best show; he shot 38.5% on 5.5 makes an attempt from past the arc final 12 months in Washington.
Horford is a greater career-shooter at 37.4%, and is coming off of a greater season at 44.6% (a career-high!). That doesn’t imply that Latvian can’t nonetheless be impactful enjoying alongside Tatum and Brown. Fairly frankly, there’s a very good probability that he’s capable of take his effectivity from three to a different degree, whereas benefiting from the gravity of Boston’s pair of stars.
The advantage of the match must be a two-way avenue in that sense. The thought is that Porzingis’s dependable three-point capturing ought to create more room for Tatum and Brown to function on the offensive finish, whereas opposing defenses will likely be extra hesitant to sag off of the massive man and collapse on the drive — as they do with Horford.
Although the three-point shot has turn out to be a significant a part of the Celtics’ offense and at the moment’s NBA normally, it doesn’t damage to have the ability to rating the ball down low.
The submit up isn’t one thing that followers see an excessive amount of anymore from Horford, however early on in his time with Boston it was fairly frequent. In 2016-2017, his first in inexperienced, Horford averaged 3.6 factors per recreation out of the submit on 7.5 touches every time. The next 12 months, he noticed that common drop by simply over some extent every recreation as his touches on the block decreased.
Porzingis posted related stats from the low block final 12 months. He scored 3.6 factors per recreation — the fourth-highest within the NBA — for the Wizards on 4.0 submit ups. On high of that, he was capable of have success from the elbow a good quantity too, tallying 2.9 factors per recreation.
Each have proven that they are often efficient because the roll man in pick-and-roll offense as nicely. Porzingis’s 3.4 factors per recreation in that function in 2022-2023 rival Horford’s common of three.6 factors in it (again in that first Celtics season).
These added wrinkles to the Latvian’s offensive recreation are necessary as a result of they offer Boston a back-up plan for when the threes don’t fall — one thing they lacked throughout the playoffs final season.
In these playoffs, the Celtics had been 9-1 in video games the place they shot over 39.0% from deep, and 2-8 in video games that they didn’t. For reference, no staff shot greater than 38.7% from distance within the 2022-2023 common season. That’s the epitome of “reside by the three, die by the three” basketball.
Lastly, Porzingis isn’t solely impactful on the offensive finish of the ground. He has confirmed that he generally is a presence on the defensive aspect of the ball, too — one thing that Horford has cemented himself as all through his profession.
Boston’s new No. 8 has constantly been amongst the league’s greatest shot blockers. He’s been throughout the top-20 gamers by way of complete rejections in six of his seven energetic seasons.
Porzingis additionally finds himself as a part of the NBA’s high pick-and-roll defenders. Final season, he solely gave up a median of 0.93 factors per pick-and-roll. Solely Anthony Davis, Steven Adams, and Giannis Antetokounmpo ranked greater than he did as a pick-and-roll defender, per Second Spectrum.
Including one of many league’s greatest in that class will likely be enormous for the Celtics. The pick-and-roll was one thing that opposing groups fried their protection with within the playoffs. The likes of Trae Younger and James Harden took benefit of Boston’s weak drop protection, concentrating on an older, slower Horford.
Younger took over on a number of events in Recreation 3 towards Boston, when he hunted Horford out of the pick-and-roll.
Within the subsequent spherical, Harden had related success on his approach to a 45-point Recreation 1 in Boston.
Although he’s at all times been referred to as a dependable defender, Horford isn’t on the degree he was again in 2018 when he was named to the All-Defensive second-team. Porzingis’s capacity to be the drop defender ought to do wonders for the Celtics protection.
Make no mistake, the 37-year-old continues to be a succesful defender, he’s simply not as sharp as he was once on the perimeter.
Horford stepped up huge within the second spherical towards the 76ers. He took on the task of slowing down MVP Joel Embiid and did a implausible job. Embiid averaged simply 25.5 factors per recreation on 42.1%/20.0% splits, albeit coming off of the knee harm he suffered within the opening spherical.
Al Horford, as soon as once more, utterly took the league MVP out of the sport.
For the collection, based on https://t.co/I1Cw5njpNb, Horford held Embiid to 82 complete factors on 80 photographs and a HORRENDOUS 46.4 TS% (10.1% worse than the playoff common TS%).
Playoff Al does it once more. pic.twitter.com/Je7sqWG3Hx
— (@bmoretalks_ball) Could 15, 2023
Horford could also be getting up there in age, however he’s nonetheless bought a lot to offer. It wouldn’t be stunning if he and Porzingis had been each within the beginning lineup for the Celtics on Opening Evening. Hopefully, Horford is ready to assist information the 28-year-old as he will get acclimated to his new staff.
And with the pair’s skillsets being so related, it solely is sensible that Porzingis will likely be nicely outfitted to take over Horford’s function when the time comes.