Brad Stevens’ first splash as the Celtics’ president of basketball operations raised enough eyebrows to require an explanation.
On Monday, three days after sending Kemba Walker and a first-round draft pick to Oklahoma City for Al Horford, Stevens broke down the deal from his perspective.
“It gave us the opportunity to look at a road with a few more options,” Stevens said. “From the financial flexibility standpoint, with the picks, all of our future first-round picks past this year, which, again, give you more options.
“And then it was the best deal that we thought with regard to returning players, right? The opportunity to add [Horford], who makes significantly less money but is a really good player who has corporate knowledge of this environment that’s really excited to be back in Boston and has a good feel for not only playing with our guys but also has made them better.”
In flipping Walker for Horford, the Celtics will save over $20 million across the next two seasons. The trade brings Boston back below the $136.5 million luxury tax threshold for next season, giving Stevens much-needed financial flexibility as he looks to build a championship-caliber roster around star-forwards Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown.
“The ability to make our wings better is going to be a huge part of the people that will be around them,” Stevens said.
Stevens certainly believes Horford to be an integral piece to that plan. Horford originally signed with the Celtics as a free agent during the 2016 offseason; in three seasons, he averaged 13.5 points per game.
Last year, Horford appeared in only 28 games for the Thunder following a mutual decision between Horford and the franchise to shut him down for the season in March. When active, he averaged 14.2 points per game, his highest total since the 2015-16 season.
“Al can move the needle,” Stevens said. “… I think that sometimes the ability to space, pass, play in different ways and play in different coverages at the other end, be able to play with other bigs or as the lone 5 I think is something that … he just has a wealth of experience.”
Stevens is entering his first offseason at the helm of Boston’s front office. He replaced long-time president of basketball operations Danny Ainge, who stepped down following the Celtics’ disappointing first-round playoff exit earlier this month.
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