3 moves the Celtics can make after trading for Al Horford

Al Horford Boston Celtics

Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images

The Boston Celtics just traded Kemba Walker for Al Horford, but their offseason is likely far from done.

It didn’t take long for Brad Stevens to make his mark as an executive. Just two weeks after Stevens took over for Danny Ainge, he has reportedly traded Kemba Walker, the No. 16 pick in the upcoming draft, and a second rounder in 2025 to the Oklahoma City Thunder for Al Horford, Moses Brown and a second in 2023.

Walker’s time in Boston was ticking down. He was clearly disgruntled after being on the trade block last offseason, and a disappointing 2020-21 season from Walker and the rest of the team sealed his fate. Stevens acted promptly, and both parties are likely better off for it —even though it cost the Celtics a good pick.

Speaking of picks, the Thunder once again feast on a desperate team. On the night of the 2020 Draft, they got a first round pick for taking on Horford’s contract; seven months later, he’s worth a first to someone else. Sam Presti now controls 18 first rounders across the next seven drafts.

The Celtics are not in a great spot. Few teams are after being effectively forced to trade someone on the wrong side of 30. This move puts them several million dollars under the luxury tax, but also leaves them without a starting point guard. And with Jayson Tatum’s extension kicking in next year, the opportunities for big moves are dwindling. What’s next for the rookie executive as he tries to build a great roster around Tatum and Jaylen Brown?

1. Shop around for a point guard

Every team could use another ball handler, but this Boston team would jump up a tier with a new floor general. In recent years Boston cobbled together offense from multiple prongs, rather than one fulcrum, and it produced good results. But those teams could also had the talent to pull it off; this roster has one, maybe two plus passers.

Bringing Horford back mitigates some of this. Despite his last two seasons being a dreadful one with the 76ers and a gap year with the Thunder, he definitely still has value as a playmaker and shooter at the 5. Together those attributes are a guard’s best friend, as Horford is a threat to do all kinds of stuff out of a pick action.

But he’s also 35 years old, and two years removed from being a plus offensively. Those foundational skills should age well, but it would be irrational to expect him to be just as effective as he was his last time in Beantown.

Acquiring that guy is its own challenge, especially now that they’ve burned their upcoming first rounder on the Walker trade. Unless Stevens wants to dangle Marcus Smart, the bullets in his arsenal are the trade exceptions (most notably the $11M, $6.9M, $5M and $4.8M exceptions) and youngsters (Aaron Nesmith, Payton Pritchard, Grant Williams and Robert Williams).

The latter Williams is a name to watch. His tenure in Boston has been sporadic at best and frustrating at worst. Stevens refused to play Timelord until he was the only card left on the table, and in the short stints Timelord got, he often made the most of them. 2021-22 is the last year of his rookie contract, there’s a new center in town, and the man who refused to call his number is now calling the shots with who stays and goes.

A few names stick out, but agreeing on a sensible trade for both sides is difficult. Would the Pelicans be okay not getting a guard in return for Lonzo Ball? How easy is it to pry Ricky Rubio from the Timberwolves? Are the Pacers amiable to trading Malcolm Brogdon to a conference rival?

If the cost isn’t worth it, Stevens may be better off waiting until next offseason (more on that in the next slide).

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