After transitioning to the bench as the Philadelphia 76ers go all-in on the 2019 playoffs, trading Al Horford to the Kings for Buddy Hield feels inevitable.
Al Horford is a starter no more.
In theory, the idea of stealing Joel Embiid‘s biggest playoff foe from a division rival, transplanting him to the City of Brotherly Love, and penciling him in at power forward made some sense, but boy howdy did it fail to materialize as advertised.
And believe you me, the Philadelphia 76ers tried.
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Horford shared the court with Embiid and perched on the wings like an even bigger Tobias Harris. Brett Brown staggered the duo and tried to make both of his centers happy. Horford even got a run as a full-time starter when Embiid was down with a broken finger, but even uncuffed from the 7-foot-tall shadow looming over his 13th professional season, the 33-year-old’s fit never coalesced above the theoretical.
While the sample size may be small, the Sixers’ starting lineup has been invigorated by the addition of Glenn Robinson III as a fifth starter; a player on the books for $26,117,133 less than Horford in 2019-20.
So needless to say, the idea of bringing back Horford at $27.5 million next season to play under 24 minutes of action a night as a backup small-ball center is not going to happen.
But who, you may ask, would want to add a player like Horford? Is there a team in the NBA right now who could use a flexible center/power forward noted for his excellent locker room presence? Bonus points if they have a knockdown outside shooter who is looking for a new start on a better team.
I think you know where I’m going here.
You see, much like the 76ers, the Sacramento Kings also made a drastic lineup change around the All-Star break, kicking their own $100 million(ish) man to the bench to hopefully shake things up. So far so good, as the team is 7-4 over the last 11 games, including big wins over the Grizzlies, Heat, and Clippers, but in doing so, the franchise has done some serious damage to their relationship with 27-year-old sharpshooter Buddy Hield.
The prestigious winner of the 2020 3 point shooting contest, Hield is among the best players in the league at getting 3 points on the board with near-limitless range. And yet, for whatever reason, maybe comments made about the team back in December, Luke Walton appears content with bringing Hield off the bench in favor of soon-to-be-free-agent Bogdan Bogdanovic, an off-ball playmaker fans in the 215 should be familiar with from scores of pre-trade deadline mock drafts.
This decision reportedly brought Hield close to requesting a trade as per The Athletic’s Shams Charania, discussions that will all but certainly pick up again this summer if his role (and the team’s fortunes) don’t change fast.
Sounds like the exact situation that could land Philly a foundational piece to fill out their starting lineup and finally, finally, set the team up for years and years of appropriate spacing.
Monetarily speaking, a move is totally possible, as Hield set to make a little over $24 million this fall versus Horford’s $27.5 million. Per my basic mathematic abilities, the two teams could legally execute a one-for-one trade under the current CBA without having to add any other cash or contract or could opt to expand the deal to include other pieces like Zhaire Smith or restricted free agent Harry Giles to swap around some ill-fitting pieces.
Could is the keyword here. Who knows what either party is actively looking to acquire, or what they would be willing to part with to facilitate a blockbuster deal where literally hundreds of millions of dollars are exchanging hands, if they are willing to at all. What we do know, however, is that there are some pretty easily connected dots that could link the two frequent trade partners together once more for a move that could be beneficial for both parties.
There’s that word again.
If we are to believe that Bogdanovic is about to secure a long-term deal to be the Kings’ long-term shooting guard of the future – something in the neighborhood of Hield’s four-year, $94 million – it makes sense to trade for a long-term starting center like Horford to fill out a frontcourt that also features a massively overpaid small forward like Harrison Barnes and a soon-to-be-paid second-year tweener in Marvin Bagley II.
Speaking of Bagley, is there a better player in the entire NBA to help elevate his game to its high-end potential than Horford? Neither a true four comfortable with extending his game out to beyond the arc with regularity or a stout enough post presence to mix it up in the paint against players like Embiid, Bagley desperately needs to be paired up with a center like Horford who can help to mask his deficiencies and complement his impressive offensive skills.
Fun fact, Horford is only seven years younger than Luke Walton, and actually played against a number of times over their shared NBA tenure from 2007-13. That’s pretty cool.
Now I know what you are (probably) thinking: ‘This is a Philly blog, why are you spending so much time talking about Horford’s fit with the Kings when you should be talking about Hield’s fit in Philly?’
Okay, fair. *checks notes* Hield’s fit in Philly is obvious: He’s one of the league’s best off-ball shooters.
On the season, Hield is sinking 38.5 of his 9.9 3 point shots a game.
Just for context, the 76ers only have one player, Furkan Korkmaz, who is knocking down shots at a higher clip and he’s doing so on half as many attempts a game. In any given game, Hield hits more 3 pointers than Korkmaz and Tobias Harris combined. Granted, shooting is pretty much all Hield can do, but when you are that good at one skill and have the added bonus of Matisse Thybulle coming off the bench, teams tend to live with that.
J.J. Redick was gainfully employed by the Sixers for two seasons and he was consistently ranked one of the worst defensive shooting guards in the NBA over that tenure.
Slot in Hield between Ben Simmons and Josh Richardson and the 76ers suddenly have an uber-expensive starting five that actually looks natural, with a 6-foot-4 player, a 6-foot-6 player, a 6-foot-8 player, a 6-foot-10 player, and a 7-footer in the paint.
You need a player who can run with Simmons and serve as an outlet pass on a fast break? Hield does so regularly with De’Aaron Fox. How about a player with the limitless range that makes a team think twice from crowding the paint when Embiid gets the ball in the low post? Did you see the 3 point shooting contest? Hield is a catch-and-shoot king.
Really, Buddy Hield as good of a fit with the Philadelphia 76ers as Al Horford is with the Sacramento Kings, and making a swap between the two parties is not only logical but borderline inevitable. You know, I could think of worse moves for Elton Brand to pull off, like trading for yet another max contract center.