It didn’t take long for Daryl Morey to land on his feet. The former Houston Rockets architect will oversee the Philadelphia 76ers’ basketball operations department. A deal will likely be finalized in the next few days, giving Morey ample time to figure out what he’s going to do with the Sixers’ worst contract, Al Horford.
During the 2019 free agency period, the Sixers signed Horford to a lucrative $109 million deal, stealing him away from the rival Boston Celtics. Everyone in Philadelphia was certain Joel Embiid and Horford were going to dominate the frontcourt together and lead the Sixers to a deep postseason run.
However, Embiid and Horford did not only fit together at all, but Horford was also booed by Sixers fans multiple times at home games and eventually got benched by former head coach Brett Brown.
To make matters even worse, two Sixers fans told Adam Aaronson of “The Rights To Ricky Sanchez” podcast that their ticket sales representatives cited contributing to the pay of Horford’s massive contract as a reason why their 2019-20 prices increased significantly.
Horford appeared in 67 games for the Sixers in 2019-20. He averaged 11.9 points, 6.8 rebounds and 4.0 assists while shooting 45.0 percent from the field, 35.0 percent from beyond the arc and 76.3 percent from the free-throw line. Philly paid Horford $28 million in 2019-20, but the team got numbers from the former All-Star that don’t even come close to warranting that type of salary.
Moving forward, Horford is set to make $27,500,000 in 2020-21, $27,000,000 in 2021-22 and $26,500,000 in 2022-23. Morey, one of the most aggressive basketball execs in NBA history, has to trade Horford this offseason no matter what since his contract is terrible and the Sixers have zero floor spacing on the court when Horford, Embiid and Ben Simmons are playing together.
With that being said, here are three trade destinations for Al Horford that Daryl Morey, Sixers GM Elton Brand and head coach Doc Rivers should think about making once the 2020 transaction period opens.
1. New York Knicks
The New York Knicks are reportedly open to trading for “undesirable contracts” in order to acquire assets, per Ian Begley of SNY. New York could have more than $60 million in cap space this offseason.
Horford, should he get traded to the Knicks, would have more of a role on offense since New York doesn’t have any All-Stars on the team. The Knicks are trying to build a winning culture with new team president Leon Rose and head coach Tom Thibodeau. Although he’s not the All-Star player he was during his early days with the Atlanta Hawks, Horford is still a great guy to have in your locker room since he’s a professional and has been to the playoffs a bunch of times.
There is no consensus on whether the Knicks will look to compete next season or play for the 2021 draft. A change of scenery for Horford, though, is greatly needed since he can’t function with the Sixers as long as Simmons and Embiid are there.
2. Minnesota Timberwolves
The Minnesota Timberwolves’ roster is headlined by Karl-Anthony Towns and D’Angelo Russell. Morey should try and trade Horford to the Wolves for a deal that maybe includes Malik Beasley, who becomes a restricted free agent this offseason.
The Sixers need more shooters around Simmons and Embiid and Beasley is a career 38.8 percent shooter from beyond the arc. He’s also a good defender and solid playmaker.
Morey and Timberwolves president of basketball operations Gersson Rosas used to work together on the Rockets, so maybe the two can work out a deal involving Horford which benefits both of them.
3. Golden State Warriors
The Golden State Warriors will be back in the title picture next season with Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, Draymond Green and Andrew Wiggins leading the way. If Golden State acquires Horford from the Sixers and inserts him in the starting lineup, they would become even deadlier on both ends of the floor.
Nothing is certain, but it kind of looks like from the outside looking in that Morey and the Rockets didn’t end on good terms since he quietly worked through an exit agreement and quickly joined the Sixers. In recent years, Morey acknowledged he was building the Rockets to take down the Warriors.
If–and it’s a big if–Morey is upset with the Rockets, what better way to get back at them by helping the Warriors? Horford isn’t an All-Star anymore, but he’s still a quality veteran who can pass, shoot and rebound.
It’s going to be interesting to see if Daryl Morey even looks to trade Al Horford. However, since he’s a smart basketball mind, odds are that Morey will. After all, it’s clear as day that Horford just isn’t a good fit on the Sixers next to Simmons and Embiid.