NBA Rumors: Analyzing Buzz Surrounding Al Horford, Joe Johnson and More

Chris Roling@@Chris_RolingFeatured ColumnistFebruary 22, 2016

Atlanta's Al Horford continues to make the rounds on the rumors market.
Atlanta's Al Horford continues to make the rounds on the rumors market.Brett Davis/Associated Press

The NBA trade deadline might have passed, but the rumors surrounding it are sort of like a sitting-on-air dunk by Aaron Gordon—they don't just go away.

Deadline gone or not, plenty of contenders still want to find ways to improve, especially if the trade market didn't provide anything substantial. Buyouts can help accomplish this if pretenders decide to shed cap space.

This summer will begin to come into focus, too. Trades that didn't come together might see the end result going down via a contract for a face in a new place. Others simply might have waited for warmer weather and a free-agency period headlined by Kevin Durant.

No matter the journey or story, there is still plenty for NBA faithful to know on the rumor market. Here's the latest.


The Cavaliers-Joe Johnson Link

A potential Joe Johnson buyout will have far-reaching implications.
A potential Joe Johnson buyout will have far-reaching implications.Kathy Willens/Associated Press

Despite being first place in the Eastern Conference, the Cleveland Cavaliers didn't sit on their hands; they brought Channing Frye on at the deadline.

If the rest of the Association permits it, the Cavaliers won't stop there, either.

According to Chris Haynes of, the Cavaliers would still like to grab Joe Johnson if the Brooklyn Nets buy out his contract: "Brooklyn Nets veteran swingman Joe Johnson is still very much in play for the defending Eastern Conference champions, league sources informed"

Johnson would provide an obvious boon for the Cleveland lineup, which right now leans on J.R. Smith and defensive specialist Iman Shumpert at shooting guard. Johnson might be 34, but he's still averaging 11.6 points, 4.1 assists and 3.9 rebounds per game in a miserable situation.

Said situation might not let him out of his contract, though, according to Haynes: "Brooklyn is aware of the ballpark figure it would take for Johnson to agree to a buyout, a source said. The way sources characterize the situation, Brooklyn has to decide whether it wants to help the Cavaliers, or allow Johnson to play out his contract as-is."

It's almost scary to think the Cavaliers (40-14) could still upgrade the roster. Brooklyn seems to hold the cards and can decide whether it allows the situation to develop. For more than one reason, as usual, the Nets remain a team to watch.


Al Horford-Orlando Magic Interest

The interest for Horford doesn't stop because the deadline passed.
The interest for Horford doesn't stop because the deadline passed.John Bazemore/Associated Press

Despite what seemed like strong logic, the Atlanta Hawks didn't host much of a fire sale at the deadline and instead opted to keep guys and continue the push in the Eastern Conference, where they sit in sixth place (31-26).

The main topic of rumors and speculation was center Al Horford, who heads for free agency this summer. Given the miserable failure to meet expectations—and the idea the front office would want to get something in return for Horford potentially leaving and fix the chemistry of the lineup—Horford dominating the headlines made sense.

The passing of the deadline hasn't stopped this.

It seems the Orlando Magic and Horford might have eyes for each other in the summer, according to this note from Sean Deveney of Sporting News:

But a source told Sporting News that the Magic will have an interest in Hawks big man Al Horford — and the interest would be mutual. Horford helped lead Florida to back-to-back NCAA championships in 2006 and 2007, spending three years as a student in Gainesville. Horford can be a free agent this summer, and while he has been happy with the Hawks, there’s no doubt that Atlanta was fielding offers for him in the last week before deciding to stand pat.

The connections there make sense. So too does the fact Orlando might have an interest. The Magic have a young core with Elfrid Payton, Victor Oladipo and the aforementioned Gordon, but they don't have much in the way of a veteran presence to guide the rebuild.

Not only can Horford be such a guiding presence, he's also somewhat of an upgrade on current center Nikola Vucevic. Horford is 29 years old with averages of 15.3 points, 6.9 rebounds and 1.5 blocks per game.

Horford would add a huge boost for a franchise like Orlando, which often struggles to lure big names to town.

Orlando, of course, will be far from the only team interested in Horford. The Florida connection sure looks better each day, right?


Celtics Considered Jahlil Okafor?

Jahlil Okafor is one of three big men the 76ers could move.
Jahlil Okafor is one of three big men the 76ers could move.Matt Slocum/Associated Press

Sitting on one of the biggest stockpiles of assets one could imagine, the Boston Celtics and general manager Danny Ainge elected to remain rather quiet at the deadline.

From what most understand, at least.

Some might have wanted the Celtics to pursue names such as Horford or maybe go all-in on a guy like Dwight Howard. The Celtics, though, had other ideas.

Steve Bulpett of the Boston Herald revealed the Boston front office toyed with the idea of Jahlil Okafor of the Philadelphia 76ers:

Danny Ainge clearly doesn’t [believe this roster is playoff-ready]. And that is healthy. It’s why he spent the last several days trying to get the kind of magnetic player needed to lift the Celtics from the NBA’s middle earth. While a league source has indicated the late target Ainge has referred to in radio interviews was Philadelphia’s Jahlil Okafor, Ainge has turned silent on the matter.

This isn't so shocking in hindsight. Ainge had made it clear through his actions that this rebuild would focus on younger players with upside. Going out and grabbing a Howard and sacrificing young assets and draft picks wouldn't mesh well with the rebuild thus far. 

Going out and grabbing Okafor? That's a different conversation.

Okafor, just 20 years old, might need a change of scenery despite averaging 17.4 points, 7.3 rebounds and 1.2 blocks per game. It certainly helps that, unlike Boston, Philadelphia has had one of the oddest rebuilds around and looks poised to deal a young big man considering the trio of Okafor, Joel Embiid and Nerlens Noel clogging the roster.

Why is this important to note? Ainge's stockpile of assets, including a potential top-five pick, hasn't gone anywhere. If the organization likes Okafor enough, a deal this summer wouldn't be hard to imagine.

Call it another ace in a stockpile of cards to watch as the warm weather approaches.


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