Quick Hits: Thunder to Pursue Al Horford?

Quick Hits: Thunder to Pursue Al Horford?

ESPN’s Brian Windhorst reported early this morning that the Thunder have been making calls about clearing massive amounts of salary cap room, purportedly in order to pursue All-Star big man Al Horford of the Atlanta Hawks. Here’s a few quick hits that come to my mind:

  • My initial reaction is that this strikes me more as noise than signal. Yes, Billy Donovan coaches the Thunder. Yes, Horford and Donovan are tight from their time together at Florida. But we also downplayed the significance of Kevin Durant’s relationship with Scott Brooks when Brooks landed the Wizards job.
  • The Hawks can offer the 30-year-old Horford a five-year deal worth up to $161 million. According to some reports, the Hawks don’t want to offer that fifth year, which would be worth over $38 million when Horford is 35. Horford’s agent needs to create some leverage. If the Hawks relent and offer a full or partial fifth year guarantee, it could be enough to sway Horford back to Atlanta.
  • But that’s no fun. What must the Thunder do if they want to create cap space to sign Horford outright? It’s been outlined by a few other folks, but to re-hash: they’d have to renounce their rights to Dion Waiters, Randy Foye and Nazr Mohammed. They’d then have to unload Enes Kanter, Kyle Singler and Mitch McGary onto a team with cap space. They’d also have to trade or waive Anthony Morrow and Ersan Ilyasova. That’s a lot.
  • But, if the Thunder could somehow make this a sign-and-trade deal instead, they wouldn’t have to do anything quite that drastic. One scenario would be to package Kanter, Singler and McGary, and perhaps another piece if required, and acquire Horford that way. It would place the Thunder under a hard salary cap for a year, but it would be manageable. They could then bring back Waiters under that scenario, as long as it didn’t break the hard cap.
  • All of this feels like a long shot and out-of-the-box. Then again, so did Andre Iguodala to the Warriors in 2013.
  • And then what about this scenario, as Jerry Ramsey and I discussed this morning: what if the Thunder’s interest in Horford is more about the possibility of Durant departing? If Durant signed with another team, the Thunder could create salary cap space for Horford much more easily.
  • And we’d all be sad.
  • Nobody wants to think like that. And it’s impossible to ignore the odds of Durant coming back to OKC. But if you’re not prepared for multiple scenarios as an NBA franchise, you’re basically the Knicks, Nets or Lakers right now.
  • I’m having serious “Jason Kidd to the Spurs in 2003” and “Chris Bosh to the Rockets in 2014” flashbacks right now.
  • About Ilyasova: his contract becomes guaranteed for $8.4 million if he’s not waived by the end of June 30. He also can’t be traded in a package with other Thunder players until August 23. That’s why he can’t be part of a hypothetical sign-and-trade for Horford.
  • Understand that the Thunder are past the phase of avoiding the luxury tax. But four years of Durant, Westbrook, Horford and possibly Adams on max contracts is awfully expensive. Then throw in a potential $18 to $20 million per season deal to keep Oladipo. It’d be worth it if it resulted in a championship banner or four. But the Thunder could also be there right now with what they have. Assuming, y’know, that guy wearing #35 returns.



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