Forsberg: Why Horford's extension is another win for Brad Stevens


One of the hallmarks of Brad Stevens' brief-but-active tenure as president of basketball operations has been a desire to provide security to his team’s core players.

By inking Al Horford to a two-year, $20 million extension, the Boston Celtics now have their top seven players signed through the 2023-24 season. What’s more, potential offseason extensions for Jaylen Brown (if he lands an All-NBA berth) and Grant Williams could lock in the core of this team deep into the future.

The decision to extend Horford became easier as he continues to stiff-arm Father Time. At age 36 and coming off a highly productive NBA Finals run, he’s shooting a career-best 48.8 percent beyond the 3-point arc and 55.5 percent from the floor overall. The Celtics have managed his workload, resting him on the second night of back-to-back this season, but he’s often looked spry despite playing the most minutes per game (31.3) since his last All-Star season in 2018-19.

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Horford was playing on a partially guaranteed deal this year and the Celtics were never going to part ways with him, but the extension delivers a bit of long-term security in guaranteeing both this season and all the way to what could be the finish line of his NBA career.

This isn’t some Udonis Haslem situation where the Celtics are retaining an aging veteran for leadership and break-in-case-of-emergency purposes. There’s little reason to believe that Horford, if paced right, can’t be a productive player moving forward. It might be unfair to expect Horford to be a 2,000-minute contributor at age 38 but there’s little evidence that he'll completely drop off a cliff moving forward.

The extension allows Boston to keep a key piece of their frontcourt while figuring out exactly how they’ll proceed at the center spot. The Horford-Robert Williams III back line spearheaded the No. 1 defense in the NBA last season and the team is eager to reunite that pairing when Williams III returns to game action this month.

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Next season, the Celtics have those two players under contract for a combined $21.8 million. Even by combining their salaries, they’d rank around the 60th-highest-paid player next season based on those players currently signed through next season.

Maybe Grant Williams, if re-signed after the season, eventually could slide into the starting frontcourt role in future seasons while Horford is managed a bit more in a bench role. But those are decisions for down the road.

In the more immediate future, the Celtics have a collection of players who all have some degree of security and can focus on this team’s quest for a championship. All this with the Celtics owning the best record in basketball highlighted by an offense on a historic pace.

Stevens inherited a talented collection of players but deserves credit for both shaping the roster and securing so many extensions. Since taking over in June 2021, Stevens has now extended Marcus Smart, Robert Williams, and Horford at below-market money. He also added a year to Josh Richardson’s deal before flipping him to San Antonio as part of the Derrick White acquisition.

The Celtics are committed to big money deep into the future but will essentially see $16 million trimmed from Horford’s price tag next season. That could help them splurge to retain the services of Grant Williams. If Brown lands on an All-NBA berth, he might be more willing to sign an extension early and fully secure the core of this team.

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