BASKETBALL fans, myself included, can sometimes fall into a trap. A trap of analysing box scores and stat lines when trying to determine a players worth. A lot of the time this is a handy way to separate individuals and find out who is superior. When it comes to the Al Horford case, his stat line hardly screams All-Star. Allen Crabbe and Malcolm Brogdon averaged more points per game than the Celtics big during the regular season, while he was also outrebounded by Alex Len and Al-Farouq Aminu. Like I said though, the stats can lie and despite Horford uninspiring line, he is proving in the 2018 playoffs that he is the most valuable big man in the league right now.
IF you like what you read be sure to check out more SportsbyFry articles by hitting this link. Make sure you keep up to date with the latest College Basketball and NBA articles and follow my fan pages on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram to never miss a minute of the action!
THE injury news to Gordon Hayward was devastating, but for Boston to then be robbed of Kyrie Irving over the playoffs is just cruel. Clearly, the basketball gods didn’t have money on Boston to win the title this year. Don’t tell them that though with the Celtics just two wins away from an unlikely NBA Finals berth. During their playoff stretch, the young prodigies on the wing in Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown have stepped up immensely with ‘Scary’ Terry Rozier becoming a fan favourite as well. None of this would be possible without the play of Al Horford though, the heart and soul of this Celtics squad.
HIS averages in the playoffs are impressive with Al Horford contributing 17.1 points and 8.4 rebounds a game. What doesn’t show up in the box score though is how good Horford is on defense. With the ability to switch onto guards and smaller players in pick and roll situations, there aren’t many teams that can expose Horford, if any. He has the lateral quickness to keep up with the zippy, crafty smaller guys, the length/composure to defend wing talents and is big enough to compete with the brutes down on the low block. Eight players have been defended by Horford on at least 35 possessions throughout these playoffs, with Giannis Antetokounmpo the only one who has shot over 50%.
Image from behindthebuckpass.com
WHEN it comes to offense, Horford has shown he is a fantastic tall to run your offense through. Need a basket on the block, give him the rock and watch him go to work. Want him to pick and pop for a three or uncontested mid-ranger? Money. He won’t be scoring 40 points for you on a nightly basis but Horford continually makes the right decision and very rarely does he turn the ball over. He hasn’t committed a turnover in 64 minutes against Cleveland and is shooting over 57% from the floor throughout the playoffs. In the last two games alone he has visibly bullied the inferior Kevin Love in the paint, shooting 81.8% against the Cavs forward.
FORGETTING all the stats and numbers for a minute and you can visually see how much of an impact Horford has. Doing all the little things, rotating on defense, teaching his younger teammates and leading this franchise in the absence of their two best players. Those are the traits of a franchise guy and Horford is worth that lofty label. He goes unnoticed, but he does whatever you need him to do. Imagine for a second taking Horford off the Celtics and putting him on another team. Now try to think of a team that he wouldn’t instantly make better once he joined them. I’ll wait…
LEADING 2-0 in the series it’s hard to see a path where the Celtics aren’t going to be the Eastern Conference champs. A finals appearance for a team lacking Irving and Hayward would do wonders for Horford’s resume. All of sudden the 5x All-Star could have an impressive case to put forward as a Hall of Famer. Forget his point and rebound averages and instead look at how he makes all of his teammates better and how he does all the dirty work to get a W. He is hands down the most underrated star in the modern NBA.
ARE there more talented big men in the league? Absolutely. Is there anyone better suited to play in the modern league, with the ability to defend all five positions, score in a large variety of ways and do whatever his team needs on any given night? Nope. There could be a case made for Anthony Davis and Joel Embiid, but Horford is just such a no-fuss operator that consistently gets the job done.
NO matter how the season pans out from here, it’s time to recognise Big Al for the true star he is. He is the best big man left in the postseason and there are now just six wins standing between him and an unexpected championship for the city of Boston. Winning six times in their next 14 tries is something Horford and his peers could definitely pull off. We could be witnessing one of the greatest most unprecedented runs in the history of sports and it’s being fueled by the Celtics man in the middle.
Banner from instagram.com