Al Horford: Philadelphia 76ers' 2020 Wild Card?
If you ask a Philadelphia 76ers fan how they feel about the Al Horford experiment in Philly, there's a good chance they will say something along the lines of "he can't get traded out of here any sooner." What a lot of fans fail to see, however, is the Sixers' front office's vision regarding Horford.
Horford might've struggled a ton throughout his first regular-season in Philly, but Elton Brand and the Philly front office are much more concerned with how Horford will look in the postseason. With a few months away from basketball, and returning to a healthy lineup where his role will likely be switched to coming off the bench, Horford could really turn things around in the 2020 NBA Playoffs.
And according to Bleacher Report's Dan Favale, Horford could end up becoming a wild card for the Sixers' upcoming playoff run this fall.
"Staggering [Horford's] minutes from Embiid's offers a little cushion. That's in part why the Sixers acquired Horford: to help navigate stretches without their best player. But those stints will be fewer and further between in the playoffs, assuming Embiid plays more minutes. (He might not.)"
"Philly is not hopeless. The defense is super-elite, with all three of its stars in the lineup. More importantly, Horford is shooting 37.7 percent on spot-up threes and 41.8 percent on wide-open triples since the start of February. He alone might hold the key—or rather, the outside touch—required to salvage this marriage of functional overlap and imperfection."
A month before the season went on a hiatus, Sixers head coach Brett Brown decided to tweak the starting lineup by having Horford come off the bench. In short, his idea worked out well. Unfortunately, injuries prevented the plan from being implemented long-term.
While the 76ers are fully healthy at the moment, there's no guarantee that lasts for the remainder of the rather odd season. If they can keep it together, though, and Horford resumes his role of coming off the bench offering quality minutes in place of Joel Embiid, then the Sixers could be in much better shape during this year's playoff run than the last couple of seasons.
Justin Grasso covers the Philadelphia 76ers for Sports Illustrated. You can follow him on Twitter: @JGrasso_