The Boston Celtics and the faithful fan base are eagerly awaiting the start of the NBA Season to get a glimpse of our new All-Star Center, Al Horford. With just under two months to go until the regular season begins, many are already excited at the prospect of Horford's success under Coach Brad Stevens's strategic gameplay.
Horford is one of the best all-around big men in the NBA and with his large arsenal of skills offensively and defensively, Coach Stevens has to be excited to utilize him in the team's system. Via Michael Pina of Vice Sports:
Over the past few years, Horford thrived within a system that incorporates the same principles Boston has bought into under Stevens. Pass, cut, move, screen, and shoot threes in fast-forward. All of these are enviable qualities in a game that rewards unselfish play, but Boston has also been able to adapt on the fly and assume different forms based on the team they're lined up against.
"The part that's great about Al is he gives you a lot of flexibility to play in different actions," Stevens said. "Whether it be pick-and-roll, off-the-ball screens. Whether they are two-man game or more motion type concepts. He's a good player in all of those situations. There are different ways to play, obviously, but the more skill, the more ability to dribble, pass, and shoot you have on the floor ... people are going to play smaller at times against us, [so] the ability to move laterally at the five and guard smaller guys while at the same time being able to pass it from the top of the key out of a pick-and-roll, or out of the post versus a switch, is important."
Horford is a tremendous pick-and-roll player which helps out guys like Avery Bradley, Isaiah Thomas, Jae Crowder, and others in terms of getting open. I can already picture Thomas and Horford playing a lot of two man game on the strong side of the court which would help with teammates getting more efficient shots. Big Al also is a very unselfish player which fits into the team's mentality as everyone relies on each other to win working as a unit. You need unselfish stars who are willing to help others improve in order to have success and that's what he does. It also helps that if you need to go inside, he can also play in the post, which the Celtics haven't had a guy like that since Kevin Garnett.
Stevens went on to rave about Horford's passing skills and his exceptional ability in taking care of the ball and not turning the rock over:
"He's very good at passing the ball," Stevens said. "He's very good at understanding where people are supposed to be and delivering the ball where it's supposed to be, and he's also good at not passing the other team the ball. You know, he's a ridiculously low turnover percentage for a guy that probably will handle it a little bit more for us. He's always been very reliable with the ball, and those things matter."
Very few players were as careful last season, relative to their numerous offensive responsibilities, as Horford. Atlanta's assist rate was never lower than with Horford on the bench; related: the team's turnover rate was never higher. He can read a defense, identify the best route and then execute a split-second decision without making a mistake. That's not just unique for a player his size; few players at any position do this better.
The All-Star Center averaged 3.2 assists in 32 minutes of play last season and only turned the ball over 1.3 times per game. For a big guy, he is very smart and knows when to make the right play. With the loss of Evan Turner, Horford can fill in that role of being more of a playmaker and creating shots for his teammates and himself. He's right up there with the Gasol brothers, Joakim Noah and Boris Diaw as the best passing big men in the league.
Most importantly, we know that Big Al is a team guy first. While it may be fun to watch stars like James Harden and Carmelo Anthony, ultimately their biggest downfall is that they are selfish score first guys. Horford has the talent to be the best player on any squad and can score 20 points and get 10 rebounds a game if he wanted but that's not always indicative of the team being successful. His role on the team will help everyone get better and as a perfect fit in our scheme, I can't wait to see how the Celtics look with him on the roster.
Image Credit: Charles Krupa/AP
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