With the NBA trade deadline less than two weeks away, things are ramping up in the rumor mill with several notable players being mentioned as possible targets in the trade market. One of the names in many headlines is Atlanta Hawks All-Star center Al Horford. Despite the Hawks currently sitting in the fifth spot in the Eastern Conference with a 30-24 record, the front office is reportedly contemplating a huge shake-up that could move many of the team’s core players who helped them finish with the best record in the East, holding a franchise-best 60 wins a season ago.
As expected, the Hawks took a drastic step back this season, struggling to find consistency with the team currently losing six of their last 10 games. This has led the organization to entertain trade offers across the league, regarding several of their key players, in hopes of acquiring young talent or draft picks in return. It clearly signals that ownership sees that the team has peaked on their potential and doesn’t view them as legitimate title contenders.
Along those same lines, a few of their main players are on the last year of their respective contracts. Horford headlines this group of players as he’s in the final year of a five-year, $60 million contract extension. This has forced Atlanta to decide whether they want to ink him to a long-term, lucrative contract in the offseason — that could reach an upwards of five years and $146 million — or try to deal him now while the team can still get something in exchange.
Horford has spent his entire career with the team and is in the midst of another productive season, averaging 15.2 points, 6.9 rebounds, and a career-high 1.5 blocks per game. He has also added another component to his game in his ninth season in the league, becoming a factor from the three-point line, hitting at a 33.5% clip, and already knocking a career-best 53 field goals from beyond the arc. This includes making a career-best five three-pointers against the Houston Rockets and recording two or more three-pointers in a game 12 times this season.
The 29-year-old could become a hot commodity on the market in spite of his $12 million base salary this season. Horford is in the prime of his career and one of the league’s best centers, currently holding the 29th highest field goal percentage (53.7) in NBA history. He could be a huge difference-maker for whatever team acquires him. Several teams, including the Boston Celtics, Denver Nuggets, Detroit Pistons, and Orlando Magic, have all been linked to numerous trade rumors over the last couple of weeks. These teams could look to get involved in discussions with the Hawks if the price is right.
If Horford doesn’t receive a max offer from the Hawks this offseason, he could sign elsewhere. He has already gone on the record earlier this month, stating that he’s keeping his options open this upcoming offseason, according to Yahoo Sports. “Atlanta has the potential for a guy like myself to maximize [the business] part of it. But obviously there are other cities, bigger cities that are more appealing probably [business and marketing wise].”
Regardless of what unfolds from now until the trade deadline, it’s a win-win situation for Horford as many teams will likely court him in free agency — due to the fact that he’s still in the midst of his prime as well as the expected uptick in the league’s salary cap space with the NBA’s new TV deal finally kicking in. It may seem unlikely that the franchise moves a cornerstone player, but it will ultimately come down to whether the Hawks want to re-sign the three-time All-Star in the summer.