By Peter Brennan
For the past few weeks all the buzz in sports bars and on talk radio was that the Sixers screwed up when they handed veteran big Al Horford a four-year, $109 million contract last summer
They thought he could pair with Joel Embiid to form one of the most dominant frontcourts in the NBA.
So much for that.
Horford gave the Sixers decent production, averaging 12.0 points, 6.7 rebounds and 3.9 assists, and he has been worth 4.1 win shares, the fourth-highest total on Philly’s roster.
But his arrival also decreased the amount of floor spacing the Sixers had in their starting five. This was not the most welcome of changes, seeing as the team had little spacing to begin with.
Yet because of the way the roster is constructed, both Horford and Embiid have spent a ton of time on the perimeter, which really does not benefit this team.
During Tuesday’s win over the Los Angeles Clippers, however, coach Brett Brown started using Horford as his sixth man.
And voila, the move seemingly worked.
The Sixers earned a huge win, and Simmons was dominant as he posted a triple-double. Meanwhile, Embiid had 13 free-throw attempts. Even though Furkan Korkmaz (Horford’s replacement in the starting lineup) had a bad night, the threat of another perimeter shooter opened up the lane for Simmons and Embiid — and they capitalized.
Horford adds some toughness and playmaking to a bench unit which is otherwise lacking in those areas.
Brown is going to ride with Alec Burks and Glenn Robinson III ahead of Mike Scott in the rotation with ace rookie defender Matisse Thybulle also seeing some minutes.
Horford can help those guys excel in their roles because he is excellent at running the offense from the point and making plays in pick-and-pop. Those are things he will have to do whenever Embiid or Simmons need a rest, but it helps that both Burks and Robinson are capable shooters.
Essentially, it boils down to Horford acting as a spark plug off the bench, which the Sixers desperately need.
If Tuesday night is any indication, both Simmons and Embiid stand to gain from this decision.
Simmons is at his best going downhill and making plays in transition, while Embiid should have the paint to himself without Horford on the floor.
Ultimately, Philly’s offense needs to run through their two stars. They can score even without being super proficient from beyond the arc, but the spacing still needs to be there.
Which is why Al Horford should remain as sixth man.