Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN reported on Tuesday that ahead of the deadline, Al Horford will not pick up his player option with the Boston Celtics for the 2019-2020 NBA season.
Boston Celtics center Al Horford will not exercise the $30.1M option on his 2019-20 contract and become an unrestricted free agent, league sources tell ESPN. Horford and the Celtics both have interest in working toward a new deal in July, sources tell ESPN.— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) June 18, 2019
This is not necessarily bad news. The last part of the tweet mentions that Horford is open to returning to Boston with a new contract. Although his $30.1M option for next season is a nice chunk of change, Horford could make that money with more long-term stability over a few years. Not only would this option be better for Horford’s career as he ages into his 30’s, but it also gives Boston more flexibility.
Horford could front-load this contract to reflect salary vs. expected production, or he could choose another route to distribute salary over the next few years. Take less than $30.1M next season could certainly add flexibility to Boston in case Kyrie Irving does, in fact, bolt for Brooklyn. Although Boston won’t dip below the salary cap with just a lower salary for Horford, it would make it easier to make a few trades to be able to re-tool the roster.
The maximum amount of cap space for Boston this summer would be $27M. However, that would not include Kyrie Irving, Al Horford, Marcus Morris, Terry Rozier and renouncing the rest of the free agents. That would shrink to $19M if you factor in Rozier.— Bobby Marks (@BobbyMarks42) June 18, 2019
If you do factor in Horford to Boston’s plans, and I’d say it’s a safe bet to do that, Bobby Marks also added this tidbit:
Horford coming back at a lower number ($20M range) with length (3 years) on the contract would allow Boston to have the full $9.2M midlevel and $3.6M bi-annual exception to use in free agency. C's are still under the tax if both are used and Rozier brought back.— Bobby Marks (@BobbyMarks42) June 18, 2019
There’s also the possibility that Horford leaves to another team this offseason as an unrestricted free agency, but after his comments at the end of the season along with other reports in recent weeks, I would say that it’s a likelier bet that Horford’s priority is to return.
Some of this may depend on Irving, who’s reportedly meeting with the Celtics ahead of the NBA Draft in order to gain more clarity. Whether the Draft or the details of that meeting come first, we should know more about the direction of this team by the end of this week ahead of free agency.