The offseason acquisition of Al Horford will help the Philadelphia 76ers in numerous areas, say NBA TV analysts Steve Smith and Renee Montgomery.
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Horford, a 12-year veteran and five-time All-Star, left the Boston Celtics in free agency after three seasons, signing a four-year deal with Philadelphia, believed to be worth $97m.
NBA analysts Smith and Montgomery agreed the addition of Horford will have a huge impact on the Sixers’ team culture, player development and hopes of advancing further in the Eastern Conference playoff picture.
Horford poses for media shots at the 76ers' training facility
“First of all, he brings professionalism,” said former NBA champion Smith. “But there is also versatility on the floor. The one thing I would say is that old cliche, ‘he plays the game the right way’. Guys will feed off that.
“As a young team last year, they did not finish games well. Al Horford can be the ‘coach on the floor’ for the Sixers. He has been through so many different scenarios. He is a calming influence for them. Also, if they need Horford to play at the five-spot to spell Joel Embiid, who has battled a lot in injuries and may be subject to load management, he can do that too.
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“Because of his passing and his high basketball IQ, he will bring that winning tradition to the team.”
Former WNBA star Montgomery noted Horford will help them resolve spacing issues on court.
“The Sixers now have four players at 6ft 10in or above,” she said. “It might be hard to play like that when the NBA is going the opposite way. But Horford can help facilitate that. The NBA is getting smaller but the Sixers are getting bigger so having someone on the court [like Horford] who is very communicative is going to help.”
Smith believes the presence of Horford will be extremely beneficial for Sixers’ superstar center Embiid.
Joel Embiid threw down a huge rim-shaking windmill dunk during the Philadelphia 76ers’ Game 3 win over the Toronto Raptors
“Joel Embiid has to understand how good he is. He can dominate in about five or six different areas without scoring. His mindset has to be, ‘I must be the most dominant player the Sixers need at a given time’,” said Smith.
“Sometimes, because he is so good, he’s like, ‘let me post up, let me shoot a three’, so, with a veteran like Al now there alongside him, the Sixers now have a guy able to talk to Joel and tell him where he needs to go at certain times.
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“That’s actually the next step for Ben Simmons. I didn’t see him putting Joel Embiid in places and saying, ‘you’ve got a mis-match every time down the court, you need to post up now’. I think Al is going to help in that area.”
Simmons has spent the summer working hard to improve his mid-range and three-point shots and Montgomery feels the Sixers point guard can have a greater impact if he resolves his shooting woes.
“A player that is confident shoots better,” she said. “He mentioned his work ethic had to get better. He’s been in the gym, I heard he was in there a couple of hours earlier than everybody else getting shots up. I’m excited to see the change.
Ben Simmons scored a playoff-career-high 31 points and handed out nine assists after Joel Embiid was scratched before the game due to left knee soreness
“He has the ability to take over a game even when he hasn’t shot the ball well. If he adds that to his game it’s going to be tough to guard him.”
Smith agreed, but added Simmons’ impact at the conclusion of games could come in a different manner.
“Everybody’s [shooting] form is different and it doesn’t have to be picture-perfect, but you have to have confidence and you have to put the reps in,” he said.
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“For me, though, I think the next step for him is to want the basketball at the end of games, drawing fouls, stepping up to the line and knocking down shots.
“Because of a lack of free-throw shooting confidence, he didn’t play physically enough or attack enough [last season]. I don’t think he wanted to get to the line at the end of games because of his poor free-throw shooting. That’s where Philadelphia need him, more than they need him shooting threes.”
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