Al Horford: Elite Big
It’s time to admit it.
by Shlomo Sprung / @SprungOnSports
With Joe Johnson signed to a huge deal, a lot of fans around the country may overlook a player of Horford’s caliber; though Horford could be used to this with Joakim Noah soaking in most of the spotlight during their days at the University of Florida. Another reason could be the other elite bigs in the NBA including Pau Gasol, Dwight Howard, Amar’e Stoudemire, Tim Duncan and Chris Bosh. As of December 30, Horford is forth among Eastern Conference Centers (fifth, as of today.—Ed.) in All-Star voting behind the likes of Shaquille O’Neal and Noah despite each player playing 13 less games than Horford’s 37 this season.
In those 37 games, his nearly 17 points and 10 rebounds per game — career highs across the board — don’t do him justice. His field goal percentage, 56.6 percent, is fourth in the League and equal to Howard’s and probably better than those guys’ you named on that list before you got to Horford.
Horford is fourth in the NBA in defensive rebounds, seventh in total rebounds and is sixth in the League with 18 double-doubles. That’s more double-doubles than Stoudemire, Bosh, Kevin Garnett and even that LeBron James guy. But Horford’s value goes beyond your standard 10-category fantasy league. For all you stat heads out there, Horford’s offensive efficiency, or points produced per 100 possessions, is eighth in the NBA at 120.2 and is in the top 10 in the League in win shares.
Horford probably gets tons of love in the ATL, but he should be more relevant based on what he does for his team. Players in mid-sized markets like Danny Granger, Brandon Roy and Gerald Wallace seem to have larger reputations than Horford despite putting up less consistent numbers. Think about how much Andrew Bynum and Lamar Odom are talked about and praised in Los Angeles and Horford has better numbers than both of them. Put Horford in a major market and he’d be viewed as the premier player he really is. And ponder this: Horford isn’t even close to the No. 1 option with the Hawks and is only improving as a player.
Another statistic that aptly proves Horford’s value is his production on zero days rest, when most players are fatigued on the second night of a back-to-back, which is actually better than his regular averages. In 11 games on no rest this season, Horford averages 18.6 points, 9.8 rebounds and 3.8 assists as he outlasts and wears down other players in the League. His top-five field goal percentage goes up as well when players like Howard and Gasol see a decline in their numbers on no rest.
As Horford’s game slowly improves and his stats climb up the NBA leader board maybe he’ll gain more recognition as a top notch big man. Perhaps the next time you’re by yourself or with your friends thinking about the best big men in the game, Al Horford will be a little bit higher up on that list.