The San Antonio Spurs may be in the market for a new center if Tim Duncan decides to retire. One possibility is Al Horford.
Horford has been an All Star 4 times in his career for the Atlanta Hawks, including the last 2 seasons.
San Antonio has been rumored to be a potential landing spot for Horford, and it would definitely be a mutually beneficial relationship if the two parties were to agree on a deal.
He’s a consistent threat to both score as well as rebound. Expect around 15-17 points per game and about 7-10 rebounds, which would be a huge upgrade from the numbers that the Spurs were getting at the center position last year.
His career high in rebounding came in 2012-2013, when he averaged 10.2 per game. It’s the only time he’s cracked double digit rebounding totals per game throughout an entire season, and his last 2 campaigns have seen him settle back into the 7 per game area.
The year he grabbed double digits per game he was averaging over 37 minutes per game, while in the last 2 years his minutes have decreased to around 30-32 per game, and hence his rebounding totals are lower.
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He’s a skilled scorer not just inside, but can extend his range away from the basket. He’s a lot like LaMarcus Aldridge in that regard, and both Horford and Aldridge on the court together would provide terrific spacing for slashers looking to score at the hoop.
Aldridge and Horford would both be able to pull shot blockers away from the interior by forcing them to honor their midrange shot. In Horford’s case, he can even extend out to the 3-point line now.
After never shooting more than 11 in a season for his first 7 years in the league, Horford seemingly overnight became a frequent gunner from downtown. He attempted 36 shots from deep 2 seasons ago, and followed that up with an astounding jump to 256 attempts this past season.
His roughly 34% rate from downtown probably isn’t something he should constantly rely on, but it’s a luxury that somebody his size can be that proficient from deep. It’s just another weapon that Horford can use to score, although he’s still far more comfortable scoring down low in the paint.
Last season, he shot about 64% in the painted area, which is well above league average. Particularly from the low left block, Horford is nearly unstoppable. He registered his most shot attempts from that area and made about 76% of them.
He hasn’t shot less than 50% from the field since his rookie season, which is an amazing accomplishment considering how many shots he takes from outside 15 feet. He shot over 44% on midrange jumpers last season, and is especially proficient at the top of the guy and the right elbow.
Horford isn’t immediately associated with elite rebounders in the league, but he’s certainly more than capable of hauling in an impressive amount. Among active players, he ranks 20th in total rebound percentage. His ranking doesn’t raise eyebrows until some of the players he tops are revealed: Pau Gasol, Paul Millsap, Chris Bosh, Marc Gasol, and Aldridge.
A slight concern is that his total rebound percentage has decreased in each of the past 3 seasons, and last year was a new career low for him. Comparatively, Duncan had a 16.6% total rebounding rate last year, while Horford had a 12.4%
The Spurs were absolutely dominated by the Oklahoma City Thunder on the boards in their playoff series. Horford certainly would have been fresher than Duncan at that stage of the year, and although he had less impressive rebounding numbers in the regular season, he’d likely have been able to compete better on the glass with guys like Steven Adams and Enes Kanter just due to youthfulness and more energy.
He’s still a capable rebounder, but the risk of signing Horford based on his rebounding prowess is that it looks like it’s one of his skills that’s on the decline. Luckily, Horford is a multi-faceted threat on both ends of the court beyond rebounding.
Horford is a very solid defender. Atlanta has become one of the premier defensive teams in recent years in large part because of Horford’s presence guarding opposing bigs. Although he’s not an elite rim protector, he’s remarkably consistent as a shot blocker. Baring his rookie season, he’s averaged between 1 and 1.5 blocks per game in each of his NBA seasons.
Horford is a two-way player who would fit in well with the type of style the Spurs like to utilize. An Aldridge and Horford pairing in the post is formidable on both offense and defense, and would send the Spurs into the post-Duncan era with two star players manning the interior.
The Spurs will probably have enough cap space to throw money at one big-time free agent, and Horford should be a guy they seriously consider. A “big 3” of Kawhi Leonard, Aldridge, and Horford would keep the Spurs as title contenders next season and into the future.
It’s hard to replace a legendary player like Duncan, but doing so with an All Star center certainly eases some anxiety about saying goodbye to an all-time great.