Big Al may be one of my favorite players of all time. Sure, his two-time national champion Gators beat my Bucks and a K-Love led UCLA, but he wasn’t regarded as the best player on those teams. Joakim Noah and Corey Brewer were regarded as the cream of the crop, and he was relegated to maybe being a bust in the draft when he came out. Fast forward to the Hawks team that had him, Paul Millsap, Jeff Teague, Dennis Schroeder, DeMarre Carroll, and other good players. He was viewed as the most expendable of the bunch, and many said they should let him walk in order to keep Carroll and Teague. Now? He’s been the best player on the Celtics the last 3 years, and he was even willing to take a paycut in order to make the team better. Sure, I will hold out hope Ainge comes to his senses, and offers Al the 4 year, $60-72 million contract he deserves for all the dirty work he did and all that he sacrificed for the team. However, we now exist in a world were Al will not only be on the market again, but will be highly sought after by numerous teams. Let’s run through a few, since it may be likely he is no longer in the Celtic green come tip-off next season…
1) Brooklyn Nets
Yes, the ol’ Black and White might be able to poach not one, but two All-Stars from the Celtics this offseason. Having a lack of playable forward/center depth, the Nets can offer Al a max contract, plenty of touches, and plenty of minutes. A small-ball lineup of Irving-Dinwiddie-Lavert-Harris-Horford sounds like it has the offensive potential to down anyone in the league. I could see them emerging with offers in the coming days, but I doubt they will be able to offer much else to him.
2) New York Knicks
Now being the other team in New York with a ton of max contract slots, the Knicks can offer Al anything and everything he wants. Does he want to be the guy all next season while KD takes a year off and rehabs? Sure, you’ll have to be on a super young team and be the old man in the locker room the whole season, but the money, the touches, the minutes, and the spotlight are all his to soak up and enjoy for a year. Might not be a contender next season, but in two? Expect Al to come at the East crown with a vengeance.
3) Dallas Mavericks
This is a team I had to really make the mental gymnastics work for, but it makes sense. The Mavericks have long shown that they are an organization that takes care of its players, and they are willing to renegotiate longer deals for less money if it means keeping a guy they like around. I mean, Dirk only signed one contract…just had a ton of extensions. The possibility of seeing Luka, Kristaps, and Al on the court at the same time intrigues me so much, considering that Luka and Kristaps definitely need a mentor on the court for the next season or two.
4) New Orleans Pelicans
The Pelicans need someone that can play basketball without the ball in their hand desperately. I know reports are saying they are targeting another young, All-Star guard, but that is stupid. They need a player that can just play and help teach their young core a few tricks. I mean, think about how ball-dominant their team is now. Lonzo needs the ball in his hands; Ingram needs the ball in his hands; Zion is better with the ball in his hands; Jrue is better with the ball in his hands. To cap it all off, Zion is too new in the league to be playing center his first year. An experienced, All-Star center in the West, like Towns, Jokic, or Davis, would eat him alive. I can subscribe to a Lonzo-Jrue-Brandon-Zion-Al lineup with Hart coming off the bench to keep Lonzo’s minutes down. They’d be more of a title contender than if they got another guard.
5) Los Angeles Clippers
This is the best team Al can go to. With Kawhi looking like he’s 60-40 in leaving Toronto, the only position the Clippers need to shore up is center. The only centers on their roster right now are Ante Zizic, a traditional center, and Montrezl Harrell, asmall ball center and Draymond Green type of power forward. While both are good in their own right, they need someone that can play both requirements at center, not specialize at one. Picking up Al would allow the Clips to let Patrick Beverly walk, giving more time to the talented young duo of Landry Shamet and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander. This is the best situation I can see him going to, especially since they almost beat a fully healthy Warriors in the first round of this past playoffs. A SGA-Shamet-Lou Will-Leonard-Gallinari-Harrell-Horford-Zizic-Robinson-Chandler roster? Sounds just as stacked as last years roster and infinitely better.