The Boston Celtics made center Al Horford their No. 1 priority in the offseason, and while he wasn’t the biggest name available in free agency, the organization had a special reason to add him to the mix.
Head coach Brad Stevens laid out a thoroughly specific plan of how he would use Horford, seeing him as a pillar that would add structure to his offensive system.
“Brad was very specific in how he wanted to use Al and play him,” president of basketball operations Danny Ainge told Adam Himmelsbach of the Boston Globe. “And that was one of the reasons why Al really appealed to us, was his ability to handle the ball and make plays and be involved in the offense, whether he was getting shots or not. He could be a threat in so many ways.”
Horford’s best all-around season took place in 2012-13, when he put a double-double for the season with averages of 17.4 points, 10.2 rebounds, 3.2 assists, 1.1 steals, and 1.1 blocks — displaying his ability to affect every facet of the game. The 6-foot-10 forward has not been able to come near that production since, but has instead evolved into a reliable low-post presence that can create for others.
“I was excited about the chance to make decisions and make plays,” Horford said, “just make the game easier for everyone.”
The Florida alum has posted averages of 14 points, and 6.6 rebounds — his lowest rebounding average of his career and third-lowest scoring output since his sophomore season in the league. But the 30-year-old is sporting a career-high 4.9 assists, becoming one of the best playmakers at the center position in the NBA.
“I just think his presence makes unselfish basketball contagious, because he always makes the right play,” Stevens said. “He probably looks to over-pass at times out of the post. But being able to play through him in the post has been huge for our team, and we need to continue to do that.”
“I think his unselfishness at his age and stage and accomplishment level and everything else demands that everybody else plays [unselfishly] and moves it to the next guy, and I think that’s a great leadership quality of his.”