One of the least talked about players on the Boston Celtics roster is Al Horford. Al Horford never seeks or is given media attention, nor does he create distractions for the Celtics.
The 31-year-old center out of the University of Florida has been a staple of leadership and professionalism since his arrival in 2016.
Horford has quietly been one of the most, if not the most, important player for the Celtics. This season Horford is averaging 12.9 points, 4.7 assists — behind only Kyrie Irving and Marcus Smart — and team leading 7.4 rebounds per game, according to Basketball Reference.com. Horford also shot 42.9 percent from three-point range and led the Celtics in blocks during the regular season.
Boston is undoubtedly a much better team when Horford is on the floor.
During the 2018 playoffs, in midst of a laughable amount of injuries, Horford has elevated his game so far.
While being the primary defender on Giannis Antetokounmpo – a certified Most Valuable Player of the Year award candidate – Horford has averaged 17.3 points, 7.3 rebounds, 3.3 assists per game. The big man is also leading Boston in field goal percentages and shooting 90.9 percent percent from the free throw line.
These numbers certainly go against the common “average-Al” knock.
It is also important to highlight Al Horford’s efforts on the defensive end against Antetokounmpo. Al Horford has embraced the battle against the Greek Freek and, while he has not locked up Milwaukee’s stud by any means, he is making every possession extremely difficult. This is all that head coach Brad Stevens can ask for from his center guarding a small forward.
Boston Celtics ESPN reporter Chris Forsberg quoted Brad Stevens talking about Al Horford’s role on Wednesday.
“He’s a rock for us,” Stevens said. “We have a lot of young guys and a lot of them are experiencing this stuff for the first time and all they have to do is look at the guy next to them to gain a sense of calm or a sense of what’s coming.”
Per usual Stevens is exactly right. Al Horford is not only producing significant, game changing numbers, but he is the only Celtic with real playoff experience. Horford has emerged as the Celtics de facto leader during these playoffs in Irving’s absence.
With the first round series now tied at 2-2, Boston will need Horford to continue his performance on offense and defense and continue to lead this group of young inexperienced players.