Al Horford is Playing at an All-Star Level

Almost everything about the Celtics’ start to the season has been disappointing, but it hasn’t been all bad. Among the silver linings of the tumultuous start is the performance of Al Horford. When the Celtics traded Kemba Walker and a first round pick as part of the deal for Horford back in June, it seemed like the deal was more about getting rid of an undesirable contract than it was about bringing the former All-Star big back to Boston. As it turns out, Horford has been an absolute steal.

What Horford has done off the court has not been surprising, as the leadership he brings was initially considered the primary draw in adding him to the roster. Horford’s guiding presence has been comforting as the team has spiraled downward this year, serving as something akin to the gallant captain of a sinking ship. A valiant leader unfazed by the chaos around him. Continuing to do his job admirably while maintaining an aura of dignity and class that somehow feigns the feeling of stability, even just for a moment.

There have been many eye-popping elements of Horford’s play early on this season, but perhaps the one that should silence most of Horford’s critics is his rebounding. When Horford was last in Boston, he was hounded for his lack of production on the boards. So far this season, those individuals have been satisfied. Horford hasn’t had even one single-digit rebound game yet, ranking ahead of star centers like Joel Embiid and Karl-Anthony Towns in the category.

Horford’s defense, meanwhile, has always been lauded as stellar, but his elite play on that end of the floor has never translated to the box score quite like it through the first eight games. His shot-blocking has been particularly impressive. At 35-years old, Horford is leading the league in blocks per game.

Horford’s steal, block, and rebound averages are all currently career-highs. Remarkable.

Even Horford’s shooting averages have improved over the last few games. His three-point percentage has been pretty bad for most of the season, but is steadily increasing. After starting the season one for his first nine from beyond the arc, Horford is shooting 41.2% from deep over his last four contests.

Before the season started, Horford was thought to be overpaid and past his prime. Neither have proven to be true as Horford is playing even better than he did in his first stint in Boston. Everything he said before the season wasn’t the fan service it was originally dismissed as. He came to play this season, and is clearly doing so with a chip on his shoulder. If he continues to perform at this level, Boston won’t stay under .500 for very long.

Photo: (Maddie Meyer – Getty Images)

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