Celtics Choice: Al Horford vs. DeMar DeRozan

John Tomase
June 02, 2016 - 7:14 am
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In the days leading up to June's NBA draft, we examine what the Celtics could do with the No. 3 overall pick and how they should approach this pivotal offseason. In that spirit, we present "Celtics choice."

Today: Signing free agent big man Al Horford of the Hawks, or targeting free agent scorer DeMar DeRozan of the Raptors

The case for Horford

Did you watch the playoffs? The Hawks dominated the Celtics inside and even though he didn't have a great statistical series, Horford was a big reason why. He'll never be the focal point of an offense, but he does many things well that the Celtics value, especially on defense, where he's capable of checking shooters on the perimeter on pick-and-rolls before retreating to defend the rim. He'd also provide a legitimate post presence and he's an excellent inside-out passer. He's a four-time All-Star for a reason and he's selfless, which fits the Celtics' model perfectly. He'd probably be good for 15-8-3 a night, conservatively, and he's considered a winning player. If you've ever wondered what he'd look like in a Celtics uniform, an NBA2K16 player made that trade in the video below.

The case against Horford

He turns 30 on Friday and at times it looks like an old 30. He has suffered tears of each pectoral muscle during his career, limiting him to 11 games in 2011-12 and 29 games two years later, though he played all 82 this season. There's also the philosophical matter of giving a max contract to a player on the wrong side of 30 who doesn't exactly fill up the scoresheet. In a vacuum, any team would take Horford. But considering the money it will take to sign him, it's hard to argue he's worth it, particularly since the Celtics are looking to add an A-1 option to slot ahead of Isaiah Thomas. Horford isn't that guy ... unless he'd somehow get them Kevin Durant.

The case for DeRozan

The Celtics need scoring, and that's basically all DeRozan has done since arriving out of USC with the No. 9 pick in the 2009 draft. He averaged a career-high 23.5 points a game this season and led the Raptors to their first Eastern Conference Finals, where they managed to deal the mighty Cavaliers their only two losses of the postseason. DeRozan is a classic scoring wing, with an excellent turnaround game in the post and the ability to get to the rim or get fouled almost at will. The majority of his points come from within 12 feet, but points are points. He finished second in the NBA in free throws made (555) and third in attempts (653), good for a career-high 85 percent from the line. He's also a solid perimeter defender who doesn't turn 27 until August. There's the added bonus that signing him would rob a division rival of its best player. He's a two-time All-Star.

The case against DeRozan

He does nothing to solve the Celtics' inability to shoot from 3-point land, where he'd fit right in with some of the bricklayers in Green. He shot a career-best .338 from beyond the arc last season, but is a miserable .283 for his career -- long-range marksmanship simply isn't part of his repertoire. Of the league's top 10 scorers, only Pelicans power forward Anthony Davis attempted fewer 3-pointers than DeRozan's 139, and Davis missed 21 games. As much as the Celtics need scoring, it's unclear how DeRozan's isolation/post/midrange game would fit Brad Stevens' offense, which prioritizes ball movement. There's also the matter of money. Whereas Horford could conceivably sign a four-year deal, DeRozan is at an age to demand more cash over a longer term, with his hometown Lakers expected to offer the moon.

The Verdict

Neither one particularly merits max money, but if forced to choose, let's go with DeRozan, because the Celtics simply can't endure another season without a proven scorer to take some of the heat off of Thomas. It's also fair to trust that Stevens will deploy DeRozan differently than the Raptors did to ensure the offense doesn't stagnate around him.

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