There was a perception around the league that the OKC Thunder acquired Al Horford last month to help him rebuild his trade value. Nick Crain of Forbes wrote an article on December 17th stating that Horford had an opportunity to have a bigger offensive role on the Thunder.
He believed that the larger role would help Horford improve his statistics increased the likelihood that teams are interested in acquiring him. But has OKC given Horford a larger offensive role this season?
How the OKC Thunder are using Al Horford
The answer is no, as head coach Mark Daigneault has chosen to use him as a floor spacer. Daigneault runs a pick-and-roll offense as the team is 8th in the league averaging 23 possessions per game in the first 13 games. Daigneault has given 44.3 percent of those possessions to Shai Gilgeous-Alexander as he is averaging 10.2 per game over the first 13 outings.
Horford is usually the player who sets the screen for Gilgeous-Alexander as he is currently second on the team in screen assists behind backup Isaiah Roby, averaging 2.2 per game. After Horford sets the screen, he stands behind the arc for the rest of the possession.
The floor spacer role has forced Horford to take more than 50 percent of his shots from behind the arc as he is averaging 5.6 threes per game during his first 9 outings. More importantly, 91.1 percent of his threes were catch and shoot opportunities as he is averaging 5.1 per game.
Unfortunately, Horford has struggled when he’s been asked to be a floor spacer. Horford took 4.2 threes per game last season, 39.9 of his total field goal attempts. 95.2 percent of those attempts were catch and shoots as he averaged 4 per game.
Horford didn’t excel in the catch and shoot department as he made 35.1 of those attempts. The conversion rate allowed him to generate 4.2 points, 35.2 percent of his scoring output. It put a ceiling on Horford’s 3-point shooting as he made 35 percent of his attempts generating 4.5 points per game,37.8 percent of his scoring output.
Horford’s shooting hasn’t improved this season, converting 30.4 percent of his catch and shoots. The conversion rate allowed him to generate 4 points on catch and shoots, 43.2 percent of his scoring output. Horford is also struggling outside of catch and shoot attempts as he has made 32 percent of his threes this season.
The field goal percentage has helped him generate 5.4 points per game, 48.6 percent of his scoring output. Before the 2019-20 season, Horford only took 11.1 percent of his shots from behind the arc averaging 1.3 per game.
The shift in Horford’s role has put limitations on the team as they are shooting 45.7 percent from the field with him on the floor on 48.3 attempts per game. The shooting percentage has contributed to the Thunder only outscoring opponents by 0.8 points as they are averaging 60.6 points per game.
How the OKC Thunder should use Al Horford
If Oklahoma City wants to increase Horford’s trade value, the Thunder should put him near the restricted area. He converted 72.6 percent of his shots in the restricted area from 2013 to 2019 on 3.6 attempts per game.
The conversion rate contributed to him scoring 7.2 points per game in the paint, 49.6 percent of his scoring output. More importantly, Horford’s best statistical season came when he attempted a career-high five shots in the restricted area during the 2013-14 season.
He converted 75.3 percent of those attempts helping him generate 10.1 points in the paint. The paint production accounted for 54.3 percent of his scoring output as he averaged a career-high 18.6 points per game.
Unfortunately, Horford has spent less in the restricted area since the 2019-20 season, averaging 2.4 shots per game. He is making 68.7 percent of those attempts creating 4.45 points in the paint per game.
Horford has replaced those restricted area shots by taking more threes as he is averaging 4.4 per game. The 3-point attempts have increased by 76 percent as he averaged 2.5 per game from 2013-2019.
If the OKC Thunder don’t accentuate Horford’s strengths, they will have a hard time trading him within the next year.