Well, it looks like the Wizards will have to look into Plan C now. Al Horford has agreed to a deal with the Celtics, according to multiple reports.
League source: Horford to Boston.— David Aldridge (@daldridgetnt) July 2, 2016
Celtic Pride!!!!!!— Al Horford (@Al_Horford) July 2, 2016
Obviously, this is disappointing news, especially considering that it didn’t come down to Horford choosing the extra year and money that Atlanta offered, but Boston, who was offering the same four-year max deal the Wizards were presumably offering. Apparently, it was very close, but close counts for nothing in free agency:
Horford had been incredibly intrigued with Wizards and there was a time that he preferred Washington's talent over Boston's. Wild finish.— Adrian Wojnarowski (@WojVerticalNBA) July 2, 2016
It’s a disappointing result, but a good reminder of the pitfalls that come with trying to build through free agency, especially when you’re not a prestige franchise or in an appealing location. Washington’s struggles in the draft during their rebuild put them in a position where they needed to go hard after a max player this season and they fell short, despite putting together what appeared to be a solid pitch.
On the flip side, this should make you feel better about the Wizards’ choice to not mess around and just offer Bradley Beal a five-year max deal. The Hawks did not offer a full five-year max to Horford, according to Brian Windhorst of ESPN, and that very well may have been what ultimately pushed him towards Boston. Yes, the Wizards still could have matched if the Wizards had tried to skimp and let the market determine his value, but as this episode reminds us, sometimes it’s better to just give players the money and ensure they’re happy campers.
Now that Horford is off the board, as well as most of the other top-tier free agents, it will be interesting to see where the Wizards go next. Will they try to stock up on mid-tier free agents to build up their depth, or will they try to use their cap space to facilitate a trade for someone?