Revisiting the Al Horford trade as the Celtics earn a trip to the Finals

Al Horford #42 of the Boston Celtics kisses the Eastern Conference Bob Cousy champions trophy after defeating the Miami Heat in Game Seven to win the 2022 NBA Playoffs Eastern Conference Finals at FTX Arena on May 29, 2022 in Miami, Florida. (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
Al Horford #42 of the Boston Celtics kisses the Eastern Conference Bob Cousy champions trophy after defeating the Miami Heat in Game Seven to win the 2022 NBA Playoffs Eastern Conference Finals at FTX Arena on May 29, 2022 in Miami, Florida. (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images) /

The Boston Celtics are heading to the 2022 NBA Finals! After downing the Miami Heat in Game 7, the matchup is set between the Celtics and Golden State Warriors which will begin on Thursday, June 2nd. One of the main catalysts for the Celtics returning to the NBA Finals for the first time in 12-years was Al Horford.

Al Horford has been in the NBA since 2008, this is the first trip to the NBA Finals as no one has played in more NBA Playoff games without a finals trip than Horford. He can now check that off the list as an Eastern Conference Champion. If he can capture an NBA Championship in the next few weeks, he will add to his luxurious resume that includes two NCAA titles with Florida, and over 141 playoff games under his belt in his only missing the postseason once in his career.

The five-time All-Star, former-All NBA, and All-Defensive team member is a lock for the Basketball Hall of Fame after eight season’s in Atlanta he spent three in Boston before inking a deal with the 76ers which did not go according to plan. Horford was viewed as one of the worst contracts in the league following the 2019-20 season where he just did not fit in with the 76ers.

Enter the Oklahoma City Thunder, who traded for Al Horford at the 2020 NBA Draft. Thunder General Manager Sam Presti shipped Terrance Ferguson, Danny Green, and Vincent Poirier to the 76ers for Al Horford, Theo Maledon, and the draft rights of Vasilije Micic along with a 2025 first-round pick.  Ferguson and Poirier combined to play 23 games for Philly, and Danny Green has been a punching bag for most 76ers fans as Horford lifts the Celtics to the NBA Finals.

Revisiting the Al Horford trade to the Boston Celtics a year later

The worst kept secret in the NBA is the Oklahoma City Thunder are in a rebuilding stage, which includes tanking to lose as many games as possible each of the last two seasons. That plan was clear the moment they took on Al Horford’s contract. The organization was transparent with the veteran big man, and to Horford’s credit, he kept his head down and worked. He was a professional and insightful with the media, he helped the young players grow, and he did exactly what he needed to do to recoup value.

Al Horford played 28-games for the Thunder, averaging 14-points, five assists, and nearly seven rebounds, with a block and steal per contest while shooting 36-percent from three, and 45-percent from the floor.

Horford also welcomed a new baby into the world and spent some time away from the team, as Mark Daigneault did this season, to be with his family.

After the NBA Trade Deadline passed, the OKC Thunder shut Al Horford down for the rest of the season, a move that Horford was on board with. He had done enough to prove that the mishap in Philly was not an Al Horford problem but rather a 76ers problem, he recouped his value and the Thunder wanted to lose games, so the veteran big man got so much needed rest.

While some will retroactively look back at that decision and say how outrageous it is to shut him down after the deadline and claim OKC should have dealt Horford mid-season last year, that lacks a lot of contexts. It is incredibly hard to trade 27.5-million dollars worth of salary during an NBA season. This is not baseball, there is a salary cap, and you have to match money. No contender around the league had the money to make a trade work, so a deal never materialized, though it was not without trying.

On June 18th, the Thunder shipped Al Horford back to Boston, the Organization he desperately wanted to go to and an NBA Finals contender that with his leadership got there this season. OKC attached Moses Brown and a 2023 second-round pick to Horford to get him to his preferred destination while taking on Kemba Walker‘s contract, a 2021 First-round pick (Alprene Sengun traded for future draft capital), and a 2025 second-round pick.

The OKC Thunder then bought out Walker’s deal, still owing him 27.4-million dollars in dead cap money for the 2022-23 season.

Moses Brown never played a game for Boston and played in 40 NBA games during the 2021-22 NBA Season with a stint in Dallas and Cleveland this season.

At the end of the day, The OKC Thunder earned a haul from Al Horford’s massive contract when you factor in both trades and Al Horford got to go to his preferred team and earned a trip to the NBA Finals.

The Thunder are not the bad guys, they did not waste a year of Horford’s prime, and they would not have made some miraculous run to the Finals had they allowed Horford to play the full season last year. While it can never be proven, you have to wonder if time off and not making a postseason run for the first time in his career helped Al Horford reach these heights in the NBA Postseason.

At the end of the day, it is a win-win for each side, and everyone in Bricktown should be rooting for Al Horford to go get his long-awaited NBA Championship.

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