With the NBA trade deadline a mere three weeks away the hot stove is heating up, and rumors from Chad Mannix have linked the Celtics and Hawks in trade conversation regarding Al Horford and Jeff Teague. Although the Celtics have been involved in many rumors they have yet to make a deal. This particular option, if completed for both players, would put the Celtics on a win-now path with championship aspiration in the near future.
The positive attributes of Horford are renown around the NBA. He is proven winner, has averaged 14.3 points and 9 rebounds over his career, and would fill the vacancy at the center position that I covered here last month. This is not a knock on Amir Johnson, I love the way he plays, but Al Horford is a big improvement. He is 29 years old, is a presence on the glass, and can get a bucket in post when his team needs it. He is exactly what the Celtics are lacking. The negative aspect of a trade involving Horford is his contract. This is the final year of his current deal and he is expecting to get a significant salary in free agency this summer. If the Celtics were to pull the trigger on a deal for Horford, Ainge would either have the upmost confidence in the team’s ability to sign him to a contract extension or be sending a message loud and clear that the goal is to win this year.
Teague is an electric athlete and has shown the ability to both score the basketball and run an offense at the NBA level. The Wake Forest product, now 27 years old, has averaged 11.8 points and 5.1 assists per game over his career, and his current contract is worth $8 million per year for both this season and next. Not a bad deal for a really good point guard. The only problem with his addition to the roster is that he would join an already crowded back court. The guard position does not feel like a pressing need for the Celtics at this point, which makes this rumor puzzling unless the front office plans to completely reconstruct this lineup mid season.
Danny Ainge has shown the guts and willingness to make this type of deal and go all-in for a championship, but has shown patience with player development and ‘trusting the process’ with young guys. Is the goal to win a championship this year? If so, then this trade will certainly move the team toward that goal. Also, is the front office that confident in their ability to sign Horford to a contract extension after this season? Another essential consideration when weighing this deal. If not, then a one year window of return is not an optimal return. It all remains to be seen and or now Celtics fans can only wait anxiously. Ainge is a diligent general manager and will surely consider every and any possible option before making a decision. In the meantime, we should continue to foster the hope of a DeMarcus Cousins-Isaiah Thomas reunion in a green and white uniform.