Horford Trade Enhances Boston’s Flexibility on Multiple Fronts

One of Brad Stevens’ primary goals in his new role as Celtics president of basketball operations is to construct a roster that can bring out the best in Boston’s star wing tandem of Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum. He believes that he took one step forward in his quest to achieve such an objective Friday morning after re-acquiring Al Horford in a trade with Oklahoma City.

It was a difficult first move for Stevens to make, as he traded a person whom he has grown to love in Kemba Walker along with the 16th overall pick in the 2021 NBA Draft and a 2025 second-round pick in exchange for Horford, 21-year-old center Moses Brown and a 2023 second-round pick from the Thunder. But it was also a move that he felt was necessary, as it should provide the Celtics with significant financial flexibility moving forward to help build around the Jays, as well as an opportunity to help them continue to develop while playing alongside a versatile veteran like Horford.

“I think his ability to pass, his ability to play a couple of positions, but certainly stretch the floor against bigs, and his ability to guard guys that are all very good. But his impact on others and his ability to lift others is one of his great strengths,” Stevens said of Horford Monday morning as he discussed the trade with the media. “To have the ability to get that in return and gain financial flexibility moving forward - the cost was a person that you really, really like and one first-round pick.”

Another advantage of adding Horford, as Stevens noted, is that he already has “corporate knowledge” regarding this Celtics team, having played with them from 2016-2019, and he also “has a good feel for not only playing with our guys, but also has made them better.”

Such was the case for Brown and Tatum, as they both entered the league under Horford’s wing just one year apart. Brown’s first three seasons coincided with Horford’s entire tenure with the C’s, while Tatum’s first two campaigns overlapped with Horford’s last two years in Boston.

Having the opportunity to enter the league and play alongside a versatile offensive player and defensive anchor like Horford made life easier for both of those rising stars, and it should continue to do so moving forward.

However, Horford’s presence should not only simplify the lives of Brown and Tatum; his ability to space the floor, make plays for others, and provide veteran leadership should benefit the entire roster. His playmaking ability can take pressure off Boston’s ball handlers, and his versatility could allow him to play alongside other bigs such as Tristan Thompson and Robert Williams.

“I do think, for instance, Tristan’s ability to switch and Tristan’s ability to rebound allows him to play with a spacer like Al, who also has a lot of flexibility,” said Stevens. “Rob’s ability to play in the dunker and hitting Al in the seams and playing with the lob game gives you flexibility.”

“Flexibility” was the key factor in this trade, and on multiple levels, as Stevens explained. There will be greater flexibility in the immediate future, as the Celtics now have a versatile veteran in Horford who can play many roles in different types of rotations while also making his teammates better. And there will also be greater flexibility looking toward the more distant future, as the team will have more financial freedom to build a contender around its star wings.

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