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Sunday, September 19th, 2010 at 8:00 am  |  38 responses

Top 50: Al Horford, no. 45

The definitive ranking of the NBA’s best players.

by Tracy Weissenberg / @basketballista

Every team needs a guy who goes out on the court and produces, day in and day out, regardless of how many touches he gets, who the opponent is, or how many headlines give him credit. One of my favorite sayings is ‘don’t talk about it, be about it.’ To me, that player and that saying, is Al Horford.

Horford came into the League NBA-ready after leading Florida to back-to-back championships. During his rookie season, he helped ignite the Hawks’ furious firsAl Horfordt-round, seven-game series against the Celtics, who would go on to win the 2008 title.

The Hawks often feature iso-heavy offense, meaning that the lack of reliance on an inside-out scheme never revealed Horford’s full potential as an inside scoring threat. Last season saw his field goal attempts per game rise to just over 10 and he made a career-high 55 percent of those shots. While many of those attempts came from the 2.9 offensive rebounds he averaged per game, Horford also showcased a nice mid-range jumper.

Horford averaged just over 3 free-throw attempts per game, which will and should go up with more contributions on offense. His career-high 14.2 points and 9.9 rebounds led to his first All-Star selection; marking the first time since 1998 the Hawks had two representatives (Joe Johnson was the other).

Horford is faster and more athletic than the majority of the centers he faces, which gives him an advantage on the open floor. The Hawks in general could outrun and outlast most of the League. In an interview last season, Lakers guard Kobe Bryant described Atlanta as “probably the most athletic team that we face all year. Just all positions, they can all run…like a track team.” There has been a continuing debate whether Horford will return to his natural position at power forward, where he will match up with guys closer to him in size and athleticism.

The Hawks, devastated by the Magic in a second-round sweep in the 2010 Playoffs, changed very little about their roster this offseason. The core starters remain intact and Jamal Crawford (with a possible extension or trade up for debate) can provide sixth man spark. The big change is new head coach Larry Drew, who plans to implement a more versatile offense with less switching on D. We will soon see how much a revamped scheme affects a largely unchanged roster and whether Horford’s production could greatly benefit from a tweaked offense. If so, surrounding Horford with shooters like Johnson, Crawford and rookie Jordan Crawford could make the game easier for everyone and give the Hawks an unexpectedly effective inside-out game. The Hawks recently signed Etan Thomas, who can log some minutes at center along with Zaza Pachulia. Atlanta also has one of the most electric finishers in Josh Smith, who could create some serious mismatches if he spends time at small forward with Horford at the four.

So while Horford is ranked No. 45 for the upcoming season, the 2010 All-Star is quietly racking up double-doubles and waiting patiently for the spotlight. The Hawks’ best move would be to guarantee that Horford, eligible for an extension before the October 31 deadline, remains an integral part of the roster for years to come.

SLAMonline TOP 50 PLAYERS OVERALL RANK POSITION RANK
Player Team Position 2010 2009 2010 2009
Ray Allen Celtics SG 50 36 11 10
Gilbert Arenas Wizards SG 49 34 10 9
Lamar Odom Lakers PF 48 33 14 10
John Wall Wizards PG 47 NR 13 NR
OJ Mayo Grizzlies SG 46 46 9 12
Al Horford Hawks C 45 NR 6 NR

Notes
• Rankings are based solely on projected ’10-11 performance.
• Contributors to this list include: Jeremy Bauman, Maurice Bobb, Erildas Budraitis, Sean Ceglinsky, Ben Collins, Bryan Crawford, Sandy Dover, Adam Figman, Manny Maduakolam, Eddie Maisonet, Ryne Nelson, Doobie Okon, Ben Osborne, Charles Peach, Branden Peters, Quinn Peterson, David Schnur, Todd Spehr, Kyle Stack, Adam Sweeney, Dennis Tarwood, Tracy Weissenberg, Lang Whitaker, Eric Woodyard, and Nima Zarrabi.
• Want more of the SLAMonline Top 50? Check out the archive.

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  • JTaylor21

    Great spot for Al. Dude is a very good player even though the idiotic hawks have him playing the wrong position. Also food for thought, imagine if the Hawks had chosen either CP or DWill in the draft instead of Al, they would’ve at least being to the ECF by now and maybe the Finals.

  • Overtime

    I could possibly put Horford higher than this, he’s got a great attitude and a big upside while still being incredibly productive. One of my faves, very underated

  • serevei

    ^^ wrong draft… they chose marvin williams instead of those two

  • JTaylor21

    @serevei, thanks I forgot. Yeah, if they had chosen either of those guys instead of Marvin, they would’ve at least made it to the Finals and maybe won the whole thing. Marvin is on the fast lane to journeyman status while those two are on the autobahn to greatness.

  • http://www.shawnkemp.com Masr

    Damn I remember that series and more specifically I remember when Horford had yelled and stared down PP.

  • http://www.euroleague.net/competition/players/showplayer?clubcode=oly&pcode=AQU GIANNIS BOUROUSIS

    Where is Anna…?? The word is on the street that Anna left us…(for ….China???!!!??)

  • tavoris

    Anna is in Greece with the thugs on the Greek National team

  • tavoris

    I don’t think an elite PG woulda vaulted the Hawks to the Finals. Joe Johnson is waaaaaaaay too ball-dominant to play along a PG that needs the ball too.
    Marvin Williams definitely isn’t CP3 or Williams, but he actually does a pretty good job in his role. He’d be better if their entire frontcourt rotation didn’t have to play out of position 90% of the time.

  • http://www.euroleague.net/competition/players/showplayer?clubcode=oly&pcode=AQU GIANNIS BOUROUSIS

    @tavoris jukai….: DALE ELLIS!!!

  • JTaylor21

    @tavoris, I get to differ. I think that with a point the caliber of CP or DWill, JJ will have NO f*cking choice but to let someone else handle the majority of ball-handling duties because quite frankly he’s just no good enough or as good as he thinks. Just imagine how hard it would be for opponents to guard the hawks on the break with CP dishing and JSmith, JJ, AL finishing. If nothing else they would’ve beat the Celtics in that 7gm series a couple years back and beat the Magic last season instead of getting waxed. Also you can’t tell me that MWilliams isn’t somewhat of a BUST because he was picked so high and before two guys that are the best at their position.

  • tavoris

    I didn’t say it wasn’t a bust. He has all ability to be an ELITE SF.
    I just don’t see JJ gelling with an elite PG. That’s part of the reason why he bolted from Phoenix. He was recruited to the the Hawk’s PG. He wants the ball in his hands most of the time.

  • EJ

    OJ, Gil and Lamar are better than Al.

  • tavoris

    @EJ-but will they all have better seasons?

    All three are better players who play on MUCH, MUCH, deeper teams. The expectation to produce is lower for each of them

  • JTaylor21

    @EJ, no way in hell that LO is better than AL not at this moment.

  • http://Slamonline.com Caboose

    EJ, they may be more talented, but they definitely are not more productive.

  • arjae828

    idk. i think production is relative. i mean, Horford isn’t gunna put up gaudy ppg totals but he’s gunna be solid 15 10 & 5 or so. it’s his job to rebound and block shots. so that’s productive. but oj’s a scorer. it’s his job to drop buckets. he does that. Odom’s job changes on a nightly basis and he usually performs admirably. gil will have to score this year. that’ll be his main job. i except him to excel. he even excelled when it wasn’t all that was asked of hiim. so the question becomes, will Horford be a more productive rebounder & shot blocker than Gil & OJ will be scorers and Odom will be a swiss army knife? not sure i agree. also, not sure if horford would be as effective if he played the correct position. he’s more nimble than most centers but not most power forwards. as a reference point, brandon bass. absolute beastly ability. always plays hard…really can’t crack a rotation at the 4. i don’t see much difference between him & al. think playing the 5 actually helps Horford.

  • arjae828

    also, not sure that the grizz and wizards are “much much deeper” than the Hawks.

  • underdog

    As much as I like the Hawks, I’m afraid they’ll suck this year. I don’t see how they’ve improved since the last season. I think they should’ve kept Woody and let JJ walk. After all I still hope they prove me wrong.

  • http://www.dontevenreply.com total scrotal implosion

    Josh smith got hosed last year. How do u finish second in dpoy, but dont make the first team? Oh yea league puts bron and kobe on for bs purposes. And smoove should have been an allstar!!!

  • wottywo

    Odom doesn’t show up every game(he comes off the bench people), Horford is a starter and always plays his hardest no matter what. So making excuses for Odom is a waste of time. The best ball Odom ever played was when he was in a heat jersey, other then that, Odom was injury prone.

  • tavoris

    arjae828 – The Wiz have a rotation that includes Wall, Arenas, Hinrich, and Young playing the 1 & 2. Thornton, Howard, Blatche will get most of the minutes at the 3 & 4, and McGee will get most of the Center minutes. That’s SEVEN players that should get at least 25-30 minutes a game. The backcourt on the Wizards is especially crowded.

    As far as the Grizz, they have Conley, Williams, Mayo, Young, and Henry splitting time in the backcourt. Trust me, both Arenas and Mayo are in a position where they don’t have to put up 20ppg to be effective this season.

  • http://thephotoriot.com davidR

    nice spot for al. and man, centers are THIN in the current nba. out of 44 more positions, there are only 5 more centers left?

  • Young C

    Im a lil shocked. I know he was an all-star last year but that was more because of position than because of skill. If he was full time at PF he wouldnt have made the all-star team on either conference most likely. Horford definitely wasnt in my top 50. Is there really gonna be 3 (Johnson, Smith) or possibly 4 (Crawford) Hawks in the top 50? Im a little dissapointed Slam

  • Ai come back

    lol theres gonna be 3 heat players probs 3 lakers 4 magic 5 celts lol ……..

  • http://www.slamonline.com J

    cosign underdog. the highest seed i see for them in 7.

  • http://www.slamonline.com J

    * is 7

  • http://thetroyblog.com Teddy-the-Bear

    Co-sign TSI. Bron doesn’t belong on 1st or 2nd team, and Kobe isn’t even the best defender on his team. Artest and Battier should have made All-NBA 1st Team for at least the past 3 years, and Smoove should have been there somewhere last season.

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  • dsleepy

    i love horford’s intensity and the hunger, but i’m sorry. he should not be on this list this high

  • dsleepy

    you know what i thought about it for another half second and i retract my previous comment. you can make a case, as Tracy has done.

  • dsleepy

    where did my other comment go? anyway, i retract my first comment

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