Philadelphia 76ers: Is Al Horford the new DeMarco Murray?

(Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images)
(Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images) /

After terrorizing the Philadelphia 76ers for years with their division rivals, is an aging Al Horford on his way to becoming the new DeMarco Murray?

DeMarco Murray and Al Horford have a lot in common.

A pair of highly toted college stars, the duo entered the league and found almost immediate success in schemes built around their respective skillsets (even if Horford was always more of a power forward than a center).

The duo also just so happened to be hated vehemently by fans of the Philadelphia Eagles and 76ers respectively – until funny enough, both players decided to transplant to the City of Brotherly Love after being undervalued by the Dallas Cowboys and the Boston Celtics.

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Unfortunately, that didn’t work too well for Murray.

After putting up an absolute monster season in 2014 for the Cowboys, where he passed the century mark twice for 2,261 total yards on 449 touches and 13 touchdowns, Murray signed a five-year, $42 million deal to become Chip Kelly‘s feature back.

Paired up with his Oklahoma Sooners teammate Sam Bradford, Murray only earned eight starts in 16 games – rushing for 1,143 fewer yards on 199 fewer touches.

While the team’s 7-9 record wasn’t solely because of Murray’s down year, it was bad enough for Jeffrey Lurie to fire Kelly on the evening of the final game of the season and catapult the team into a new era of rebuilding on the spot.

Spoiler alert: Murray was not a part of that rebuild.

On March 9th, the Eagles traded Murray and a fourth-round pick to the Tennessee Titans for a fourth-round pick to get off the remainder of his contract. While Murray did return to form slightly in 2016, rushing for 1,287 yards for his third and final Pro Bowl nod, his career never quite recovered from his 2014 tour de force and he retired from the league before the 2018 season at the tender age of 29.

Horford is already 33 and will be 37 when his four-year, $109 million contract expires – young if you’re, say, a CEO or Senator, but very, very old by NBA standards.

And it’s not like Horford’s numbers haven’t already started to dip from his best NBA season back in 2013-14.

While Horford still does all the little things that make him an intriguing option even in his advanced age, like setting hard screens, crashing the glass, and being a versatile defender, Horford hasn’t averaged more than 15 points a game since he was a member of the Atlanta Hawks (2015-16).

This may not be a huge issue for the Sixers in 2019-20, as Horford will likely be the team’s fifth offensive option and mostly perch on the wings for open 3s as opposed to banging in the paint for a tough-earned bucket, it’s still a bit concerning to invest big money on a player stepping into a less involved role – even if it could potentially extend his career.

Boston clearly didn’t think Horford was cooked, as they did offer him an extension (albeit for significantly less money), but their clear aversion to paying an aging center almost $28 million a season should say a lot about the tread left on Big Al’s tires.

With Joel Embiid‘s very well documented injury history in mind, there’s a very real possibility Philly could have north of $55 million invested in two players who can’t play 82 games a season.

That would be a disaster.

Next. Boston’s new-look squad just doesn’t measure up. dark

Now sure, football and basketball are completely different sports with very different physical requirements, but it’s still a bit ominous to see the parallels between the two players and how their journeys brought them to our fair city. Hopefully, things work out a little better for the Philadelphia 76ers than they did for the Philadelphia Eagles five years prior.