Wednesday, February 23, 2011

The importance of Al Horford

The value Al Horford has to the Atlanta Hawks cannot be overstated. While Josh Smith has remarkable athleticism, shot blocking ability, and scoring ability and Joe Johnson is the so-called #1 option, Al Horford is the Hawks MVP.

It is no coincidence that the 2 most embarrassing losses on the season (100-59 loss to NO and 117-83 loss to PHI) came in games where Al did not suit up. He is a leader on the court, is the only player on the team that winning seems like it means a lot to him, and he can score when given opportunities.

For the year, Al is averaging 16 points, 10 rebounds, 3.5 assists, 1 steal, and 1 block per game. That puts Al 6th in the league in rebounding, but only 47th in scoring; the latter number needs to go up dramatically, and soon. This can be done by simply giving Al more chances to score in the half–court set. This team settles for too many jumpers and dribble drives when Big Al has either a miss-match or good position on his defender.

A player with a 57% field goal percentage needs more than 12.2 shots per game. The players just above Al in rebounds per game have the following shots per game averages for the season:

Player PPG RPG Shots PG
K.Love 21.1 15.5 14.6
D.Howard 22.8 13.8 13.8
Z.Randolph 20.0 13.1 16.5
B.Griffin 22.9 12.5 17.0
P.Gasol 18.7 10.4 13.6

That is over 2 shots per game for all of the above players, except Gasol, who is the only guy on the list (including Horford) with a player on his team that has more than 16.5 shots per game (Bryant, 19.5).

The point is, Al needs more attention. He is not a physical specimen like D3, a long-range threat like Love, or a freak athlete like Griffin, but he is a very capable scorer that needs to push his ppg up in the high teens-low 20’s like the above players. This season, Al has played in 10 games where he has attempted fewer than 10 shots. Although the team is 5-5 in those games, 3 of the 5 were road games against the NBA’s elite (LAL, BOS, DAL). Those are the playoff-type games that Al needs to see more of the ball. The other 2 losses were against Milwaukee, where Al was not in foul trouble and went 12-15 combined from the field.

He may be playing out of position as a center, but he is a 2-time All-Star when playing that position. Lets feed him the rock a little more and see if that helps open up the offense. And getting a point guard by the deadline wouldn’t hurt either…

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