Al Horford has helped provide spacing on offense well the past few seasons, and that shouldn’t change during his time with the Philadelphia 76ers.
Horford’s signing with the Sixers was made official July 10, and his arrival helps make the Sixers legitimate title contenders. Throughout his career, Horford has been integral for his teams during the playoffs.
With his ability to stretch defenses because of his shooting skills, coupled with his quality defense and rebounding skills, Horford has proven to be valuable in the postseason.
His ability to play the stretch big role well will be especially important for the Sixers, though.
Last season Philly struggled to create optimal spacing. In the playoffs Ben Simmons was kept from being a premier facilitator. He averaged 6.0 assists a game, whereas in the regular season he averaged 7.7.
As Simmons struggled to create, the Sixers’ offense didn’t function as well as it could. Embiid would sometimes be stuck in the post or be forced to drift farther from the block because he wasn’t open enough there. Plays would break down, and the Sixers turned the ball over at a high rate. They averaged 16.5 turnovers a game, the most of any playoff team, per NBA.com.
But with Horford coming in, he can help remedy the Sixers’ struggles on offense. During five of the past six regular seasons, Horford has shot at least 34.0% percent from the three-point line.
Perhaps one of his best seasons with the Boston Celtics, though, was the 2017-18 season. Horford shot 42.9% from three that season, and he averaged 12.9 points a game and 7.4 rebounds a game.
Horford is going to take away a good deal of attention from Embiid because of his shooting ability, and that should open the Sixers’ offense. With Josh Richardson and Tobias Harris on the perimeter, the Sixers could have a solid spread pick-and-roll with Simmons and Horford running a high ball screen.
Philly could have multiple options with this portion of its offense, and it could look to some of the plays Boston ran for Horford last season. In the video below, Horford sets a high ball screen for Marcus Smart. Horford did a good job of quickly slipping the screen and rolling hard to the hoop for an easy alley-oop.
In this second video, Horford and Smart ran another high ball screen, but this time Horford popped to the three-point line. As Smart drew two defenders, he made a good behind-the-back bounce pass to Horford for an open 3-pointer.
With Simmons playing alongside Horford, Simmons could find him for dives to the hoop and pick-and-pops when they’re available. Having Horford as an option in the pick-and-roll could make facilitating much easier for Simmons, as more space will be available for him in the lane.
On a spread pick-and-roll action, Simmons could also have the option of dishing it to Embiid down low in the dunker’s spot. He could also drive the lane off a Horford screen and potentially find Richardson or Harris ready to shoot on the wings.
The Sixers are poised to be one of the top teams in the East next season, and Horford is going to be a reason for that.
Though the Milwaukee Bucks and Indiana Pacers should prove formidable, Horford is going to elevate the Sixers’ offense, and in turn the team’s overall performance should improve as well.