When Kyrie Irving got to the free throw line towards the end of the game against the Golden State Warriors, the letters, “MVP” were being chanted around the TD Garden: too bad Kyrie should not be the Celtic that is being serenaded.
This season Al Horford has a pretty damn good statistical line of 14.9 points, 8.8 rebounds, and 4.5 assists per game. Those numbers aren’t going to make you jump out of your chair but the impact Horford has on the court is undeniable.
Among big men, Horford arguably has the best vision. He has the ability to see passing lanes that other big guys planted on the block can’t. His 4.5 apg are currently tied second among all NBA centers trailing only superstar DeMarcus Cousins. NBA.com has also created a statistic to even further show how valuable Horford is.
PIE (Player Impact Estimate) calculates the average influence that a player has on a game. Could you guess where Horford is? Above Steph Curry? Above Kristaps Porzingis? Above Russell Westbrook? YUP. Horford has a 16.6 PIE. To compare, James Harden (2016-17 MVP runner-up) of the Houston Rockets has a 18.8 PIE. Horford even ranks seventh in plus / minus among all NBA players this season.
So how the hell does it make sense that Kyrie Irving is getting the recognition? I mean, the day after the Celtics beat the Warriors to extend their win streak to 14 games, I saw a headline “Irving Leads C’s to 14 straight wins with win over Golden State”. That game Irving had 16 points on 4 of 16 shooting- including 1 for 5 from deep- 5 rebounds and 6 assists while Awesome Al had 18 points on 7 for 11 shooting, 11 rebounds, and 2 assists all while posting a plus 16 compared to Irving’s minus four. Horford was 0-4 that game from three-point range but so far through his 15 games he is shooting 42 percent from there.
It isn’t the fact that Kyrie Irving is playing bad. He actually is playing some of his best basketball right now, specifically on the defensive end where he ranks eighth in defensive win shares: too bad Horford is fourth in that category.
Expect the Celtics to slow down because it isn’t very likely they win over 70 games but one of if not the biggest reason they are on that pace is because of big Al Horford who is playing the best he has since 2013.