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A CelticsBlog debate: one last ride with Al Horford or is the future now with Robert Williams?

Centers of attention.

Philadelphia 76ers v Boston Celtics - Game One Photo by Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE via Getty Images

Three out of the four starters seem locked in for next season: Marcus Smart, Jaylen Brown, and Jayson Tatum. Shooting guard and center are up in the air. Today, two CelticsBloggers will debate who plays at the 5.

Michael Pearce: I think it’s pretty clear that Horford deserves the starting job. While Rob is definitely a better athlete, I think it’s Horford’s brain and offensive versatility that set him over the top. Why do you favor Rob?

Bill Sy: All true, but before we get into on the court specifics, let’s state the obvious. RWIII is the future and he presumably will be the starting center for the Boston Celtics in the Tatum/Brown era. There’s no better Time(lord) than now.

MP: He’s the future, for sure, but in this present moment, Horford is the man. He isn’t the defender Rob is, but he’s much more versatile on offense and still a better playmaker in general. Rob still makes young player mistakes, Horford makes smart old man plays, which pairs well with the young core.

BS: Wouldn’t it serve the team better to have Horford a less experienced bench and preserve those old bones for the playoffs?

MP: Horford just got done resting half a season. I think this year will be the only year of Al’s second stint in Boston where load managing won’t be too crucial. With Pritchard on the bench, I actually think the chemistry he and Rob have been building would benefit the bench unit and put RWIII in conversation for 6th Man of the Year.

BS: Oh, that’s cheap, MP. You can’t be using Pritchard-to-Timelord alley-oops as the basis of your argument! I’m putty in your hands then.

MP: I know my audience! For me it just comes down to the offensive side of the ball, specifically shooting. Al can pose a threat in pick and pop, Rob cannot. If Rob could at least be a semi-respectable shooting threat, he’d win me over.

Philadelphia 76ers v Boston Celtics - Game One Photo by Ashley Landis - Pool/Getty Images

BS: Alright, I won’t take this Timelord slander sitting down. Let’s dive in. Last season after the trade deadline when Williams was inserted into the starting lineup, Boston rattled off eight wins in eleven games, boasting a 107.1 defensive rating and a net rating of 7.3. Frankly, they seemed to play freer and with more joy. That shouldn’t all be credited to Williams, but I did get a sense that him getting the nod to play with the starters was a long time coming and you could see the energy elevate when he was on the floor.

MP: Oh, there’s no slander on my side. I love the guy and am rooting for him, but an eleven game sample doesn’t swing my opinion too much. With last season being so inconsistent and devoid of continuity, I’d be thrilled for any positive news! What that proves to me is just that Rob is good, but I still believe Al is better for this team. Daniel Theis was an excellent pick and pop threat with his screening ability and modest threat from deep, and I think this team missed that skill once he was traded. Al brings that back for me and provides excellent versatility 1-5 offensively, you can’t beat it in my eyes!

Call me Steve Rogers, because I could do this all day.

BS: I have no doubt that Horford has enough left in the tank to play meaningful minutes for the Celtics next season and even outperform Timelord for the entirety of the year. However, Williams is the future of the franchise at the 5. We might need to talk about the $54 million elephant in the room now.

MP: I think he can still be the future while this season being more of the Dick Grayson to Big Al’s Bruce Wayne. To me, these two are intersecting at the perfect time, where they line up like a metaphorical relay race. Al could carry Boston 3/4 of the way and as Rob blossoms, he finishes the final leg. I think that’s a scenario where all are happy.

BS: Michael Pearce, have you ever considered running for public office?

MP: No I have not, why do you ask?

BS: Well, I think you might have just convinced this voter of Horford 2022 with Timelord as his VP.

MP: Then let’s order the champagne and prepare for the inauguration!

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