SLAM Top 50: Al Horford, No. 27

A do-it-all big man who plays with heart and grit, Horford is ready to win in Boston.
by October 04, 2016
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al horford slam top 50

Here are the movies that lost to Crash in the 2006 Best Picture race: Brokeback Mountain, Capote, Good Night and Good Luck, and Munich. A History of Violence, a very good movie about somebody who refuses to stop being violent, and The Constant Gardner, another good movie about somebody who refuses to stop gardening, weren’t even nominated.

And Crash sucks. It’s been 10 years now and I can tell you, now a wizened old man who is eating a muffin as he writes this seemingly just to fit the stereotype, that Crash is a garbage movie that looks more like YouTube tutorial for drone cameras than a Best Picture winner.

But you remember Brokeback Mountain. You remember Capote. Capote is a good-ass movie.

If Al Horford is this free-agent class’ Capote, the clear No. 2 at the time who wound up being much more important as time went on, how surprised would you really be?

I am not saying Kevin Durant is Crash, mostly because saying that sentence immediately gets you elected Mayor of Oklahoma City, and I am not up for the responsibility.

But the Celtics last year needed a prime wing scorer and a bruising, physical post player on offense who can anchor a defense with the smarts (and, uh, Smarts) already occupying the Boston backcourt.

Al Horford is all of that second one. And the world has traditionally undersold Horford’s dynamic and sometimes dominant offense that could make up for the first part.

This was Horford’s line in his second-to-last game as a Hawk: 24, 8 and 3 on 73 percent shooting. But watch him do it. He played point-center on fast breaks. He hung out at the elbow extended for rotation threes. He takes off from the free-throw line to dunk all over Kevin Love. He catches alley-oops off decoy ball screens.

If somebody like, say, Dwight Howard did all of those things, he’d be ranked way higher than 27.

Crash.

Such is the plight of Al Horford. Good, but boring good. And it’s always been this way. He came out of that Florida draft class with Joakim Noah and Corey Brewer, good players who were weird good. Joakim Noah shot the ball like he was clearing something out of an 8-foot tall drain pipe, but appeared to make up for it with manic energy. Brewer did the same, but at the wing, where that felt even wackier.

Poor old Al Horford was just traditionally good. He only missed six games in the last two years, when the Hawks went from hodgepodge of undervalued pieces to Spurs Lite, with Horford at the heart of it.

Now he’s on the Celtics, who are less Spurs Lite and more Spurs 2.0. A lineup of Marcus Smart, Avery Bradley, Jaylen Brown, Jae Crowder and Al Horford has some Warriors kryptonite in it, top to bottom, and the Celtics’ best player—Isaiah Thomas—isn’t even on the floor to see it.

This team needed Horford more than they needed maybe anybody else. Kevin Durant would’ve been better, sure. But Al Horford might bring a very boring Championship back to Boston—and sooner.

Rankings are based on expected contribution in 2016-17—to players’ team, the NBA and the game.

Follow the entire #SLAMTop50 countdown.