The Hawks are viewed as the frontrunner to lock up free agent big man Al Horford this summer, since they can offer him the most money and years, and intend to put a max deal on the table. Still, Atlanta will face plenty of competition for Horford. According to ESPN’s Marc Stein (via Twitter), the Magic, Pistons, and Lakers are among the other clubs planning to make a run for the four-time All-Star.
Horford, who turned 30 earlier this month, was as effective as ever for the Hawks in 2015/16, starting all 82 games for the first time in his career. He averaged 17.1 points and 8.2 rebounds per 36 minutes, and shot over 50% from the field for the eighth straight season.
Because he has nine years of NBA experience, all with the Hawks, Horford is eligible for the second-tier max salary this offseason, so it will be interesting to see if that impacts his decision. If he were to sign a contract with an opt-out after the first year, he could potentially return to the market and land a long-term deal with a bigger starting salary in 2017. However, now that he’s in his thirties, he may be content to simply sign a long-term max contract this summer.
The Lakers only have about $23MM in guaranteed salary on their books for 2016/17 at the moment, while the Magic are carrying approximately $36MM in guaranteed money, so it should be no problem for either of those teams to offer Horford the max. The Pistons have a few more commitments — upwards of $65MM, not including their draft picks, non-guaranteed salaries, or free agents. Detroit would have to make a move or two to create the space necessary to sign Horford, unless the team intended to part ways with Andre Drummond, which seems unlikely.
In addition to the Hawks, Magic, Pistons, and Lakers, the Rockets are among the other clubs planning to make a pitch to Horford.