Every morning, we compile the links of the day and dump them here… highlighting the big storyline. Because there’s nothing quite as satisfying as a good morning dump.
From an impact perspective, Horford is only a few degrees removed from Draymond Green. Both rank among the league’s best defensive players (Horford, for what it’s worth, led the top defense overall) and augment high-functioning offenses with their playmaking. And each, in his own way, has made himself completely indispensable to one of the best teams in the league. The Celtics were forced to do without their two biggest stars last season. They marched all the way to the Eastern Conference finals regardless—because their most valuable player was still in uniform.
Sports Illustrated: Top 100 NBA Players of 2019
SI ranked Al Horford 16th in its list of top players of 2019 and the usual suspects online blew gaskets. Among those who ranked lower were his own teammates Kyrie Irving (17) and Gordon Hayward (25 but with an asterisk), Karl Anthony Towns (19), Victor Oladipo (20), and Klay Thompson (22).
Let me first start off by saying I don’t really care about these rankings. Once you get into this stage of trying to rank players, it’s all minutia and personal bias that separates a few spot.
I will say that Ben Golliver and Rob Mahoney really seemed to put this list together with a lot of thought and not some kind of “watch where we rank this guy, WE’LL GET SO MUCH ATTENTION!” approach. Their argument for Horford is a sound one, even though if we were drafting 30 teams from scratch, I’m pretty sure more than 15 players would go ahead of Horford.
This is where people lose their minds. The type of player Al Horford is to the Boston Celtics is ridiculously important based on their personnel and the type of play that succeeds in the league today. The excerpt above is dead on.
The Celtics went into the playoffs without Hayward and Kyrie and were a few made shots from the NBA Finals because they still had Horford, and he helped tie the whole thing together. In fact, I’d bet that if it was reversed and the Celtics lost Horford but had Kyrie and Hayward, it would have been difficult to get that far. Horford’s defense and ability to switch helped the Celtics get past Milwaukee and it crumbled the Sixers.
Boston beat Philadelphia in large part because Horford pulled Joel Embiid from the paint and, when he switched onto Ben Simmons, was able to control Simmons’ penetration. Take Horford from that series and you’re not only changing how the Celtics try to score, you’re turning Embiid into a defensive monster again.
This is why he’s important. It’s why he’s supremely important again this season.
I fully expect games like this to trigger arguments again this season. Horford is going to have a ton of those games where people complain and I say something like “they don’t win that game without Horford.”
I know it’s coming. This was the preview.
If you want a fun take on the rankings, here’s Sam Packard and Jay King in last night’s Locked On Celtics lamenting the fact Marcus Smart didn’t make the top 100
Related links: NBCSN Boston: SI’s Top 100 list highlights the Celtics depth | Horford, Irving, Hayward land in Top 25 of SI list
Page 2: Horford is giddy about Gordon Hayward
This is part of the asterisk I mentioned earlier with the Hayward ranking. SI notes it will take some time to see how Hayward has recovered to truly know where he ranks, and if he’s healthy he could easily be a top 15 player.
The Celtics will start guys with the following five 3-point shooting percentages from their previous seasons:
– Jayson Tatum: 43.4%
– Al Horford: 42.9%
– Kyrie Irving: 40.8%
– Jaylen Brown: 39.5%
– Gordon Hayward: 39.8%
Hayward has said he feels like his shot has improved. Brad Stevens has said the same. Hayward may even reiterate that when he meets the press this afternoon at 1:30. So he could crack 40% this season.
How is that team guardable? Who do you leave when a guy is driving? Who do you sag off of when Horford gets it in the post?
Hayward is going to feast in this offense. He can put it on the floor and drive. He can pass. He can pull up. He can do anything you need him to do. Teams already dizzy from Kyrie’s wizardry now have to recover and deal with Hayward, who can also do everything, and then oh by the way there’s Horford, Tatum, and Brown all able to shoot and drive too.
Can we please just start the season already?
Congrats to the Seattle Storm for winning the WNBA championship last night.
The WNBA’s ratings have been rising and the sport seems more popular than ever. Anecdotally, I’ve noticed a lot more of my fellow NBA Twitterers getting into the WNBA more. A lot of players and writers took some time at Las Vegas summer league to pop over to a Las Vegas Aces game.
It’s a lot of fun and a great way to scratch that basketball itch in the summer. I also love Sue Bird, so it made it very easy to root for this Storm team. Bird won her third championship, and at 37 years old her Hall of Fame career might be coming to an end.
There are a lot of great athletes in the WNBA, and I’d suggest giving it an honest, open chance. Don’t compare it to the NBA, just watch it for the basketball and enjoy it.
The rest of the links: