The Boston Celtics have signed one of the biggest free agents on the market, and they might not be done. Having agreed to sign Al Horford to a max contract, the team is still looking to add Kevin Durant.
Leaving the Atlanta Hawks, Horford will get $113 million over four years. He joins a Boston team that won 48 games last year, good enough to land the No.5 seed in the East. But the Celtics entered the offseason with more salary cap space than almost any NBA team, and they are still able to pay Durant the max salary for the 2016-17 season.
Horford announced his decision to sign with Boston on Saturday night just as the Celtics finished their meeting with Durant in the Hamptons. Durant met with the San Antonio Spurs earlier in the day, and he has five scheduled meetings with teams other than the Oklahoma City Thunder this weekend.
Oklahoma City, with whom Durant met on Thursday, remains the favorite to sign the four-time scoring champ. The Thunder nearly defeated the 73-win Golden State Warriors in the Western Conference finals, and Durant could have one more run at the title with Russell Westbrook, who has one year left on his contract.
But the Horford signing can only help Boston’s chances of landing Durant. Aside from staying in Oklahoma City, going to Boston might make the most sense for Durant from both a public relations and winning standpoint.
Joining the Warriors would certainly give Durant the best chance to win his first championship, but he would receive a fair share of criticism for joining a ready-made championship contender. The Celtics aren’t a title contender without Durant, but he might make Boston the best team in the East.
Whether he signs with the Thunder, Warriors, Los Angeles Clippers or San Antonio Spurs, Durant will have to go through a number of teams just to reach the NBA Finals. The West is far superior to the East, where Durant and Boston would only have to contend with LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers.
Boston had a solid 2015-16 season, but they were never a real threat to the Cavs. Now, they’ve added a four-time All-Star with a chance to sign one of the sport’s three best players. A starting lineup consisting of Isaiah Thomas, Avery Bradley, Jae Crowder, Al Horford and Kevin Durant would make Boston one of the favorites in the NBA.
Durant has reportedly expressed interest in playing alongside Horford, who leaves the Atlanta Hawks after spending nine years with the team that drafted him.
Sources: Kevin Durant had been recruiting Horford to OKC, but Horford eliminated OKC with no assurance Durant/Westbrook staying long-term.
— Adrian Wojnarowski (@WojVerticalNBA) July 2, 2016
Any contract that Durant signs will likely include a clause that allows him to become a free agent next summer, but Boston has a bright future that makes them an attractive location beyond just 2016. The Celtics recently had the No.3 pick in the NBA Draft, and the team has the right to swap first-round draft picks in 2017 with the Brooklyn Nets, who will almost assuredly be in the lottery.
It could still be a few days before Durant makes a decision, and he’s set to meet with the Miami Heat on Monday. But Boston’s acquisition of Horford adds another twist to the Kevin Durant Sweepstakes.