When the Philadelphia 76ers signed Boston Celtics big man Al Horford this offseason, many experts expected the 33-year-old to be the last piece the team needed to finally reach the NBA Finals. The Sixers’ four-year, $109 million investment has led to mixed results so far.
Horford was an All-Star caliber player in Boston and anchored the team’s defense. Still, Horford was reaching his mid-thirties and it was unclear how the 6-foot-9 would gel with Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons.
Through 38 games, the 76ers were among one of the most disappointing teams in the NBA in the eyes of many. Filled with All-Star talent, Philadelphia had a 24-14 record and was stuck in the middle of the Eastern Conference.
And then, on January 6, Embiid would go down with a hand injury. Without Embiid, Horford was presented with the opportunity to be the one true big man on the roster, similar to his role in Boston.
Horford has never put up gaudy numbers. A lot of his impact isn’t shown in the boxscore. As a result, with Horford averaging just 12.4 points, 6.5 rebounds and 3.8 assists per game on 45.8 percent shooting, many Sixers fans were calling for the veteran big man to be traded.
The next game, against his former team, Horford proved why the Sixers should hold off on trading their big offseason acquisition. Against the Celtics, Horford filled the stat sheet with 17 points, 8 rebounds, and 6 assists. Horford shot an efficient 7 of 11 from the field and was a menace on defense adding two blocks and two steals.
With the news that Embiid’s injury requires surgery and that he won’t be re-evaluated for at least one to two weeks, the 76ers should make use of the All-Star talent that Horford is.
The team’s time without Embiid should actually give Philadelphia a chance to become a more well-rounded team and give Horford the chance to prove that he is worth the big four-year contract he was given.
The Sixers’ big win against the Celtics helped the team get out of the rut that they were stuck in. The 76ers had lost four of their last five games and with Embiid going down, hopes were lowered even further. Horford stepped up and as one of the best veteran leaders in the NBA, should continue to do so in the team’s upcoming games.
Yes, it may be tempting to get rid of Al Horford’s hefty contract, especially seeing as how the struggles the team faced with both Joel Embiid and Horford on the floor. However, Embiid being out is the exact reason why Horford should remain a Sixer for the time being. The 33-year-old will undoubtedly help the team stay afloat in the East and in the long run, should greatly benefit a Sixers team looking to live up to high expectations.