C’s Shooters Benefiting from Horford’s Presence
PHILADELPHIA – Individual shooting numbers have increased across the board this season for a number of Celtics players.
Part of the reason behind the trend has to do with the players’ consistent work ethic.
Much of it also has to do with the addition of Al Horford and the game-changing presence that he brings to the court.
Horford has had one of the most important roles on the Celtics this season, though a number of his contributions don’t always appear in his personal nightly stat lines. While he’s had a solid numerical season, averaging 14.0 points, 6.7 rebounds, 4.9 assists and 1.5 blocks per game, he’s also made a positive impact on his teammates’ statistics.
How has he done that? It all starts with his high basketball IQ and overall versatility.
For a big man, Horford has an uncanny ability to make plays for his teammates because of his outstanding court vision. In addition, he has great shooting range and elite screen-setting abilities, which allow the Celtics to space the floor and easily create open looks.
“I think Al makes everyone around him better,” Brad Stevens said Saturday afternoon ahead of practice at Temple University in Philadelphia. “I think they all get better every year because they work hard at their games and there’s a lot of individual onus on that to get better and they do put in a lot of time. But there’s no question that a guy of Al’s caliber and what he means to his teammates makes everybody a little bit better.”
Need further proof? Here you have it:
Boston’s top five rotation players, aside from Horford, are all currently on pace to log career highs in field goal percentage and/or 3-point percentage.
Career-high clips from the field as of Mar. 18:
- Isaiah Thomas – 46.2 percent
- Jae Crowder – 45.5 percent
- Kelly Olynyk – 50.7 percent
- Marcus Smart – 37.1 percent
Career-high clips from 3-point range as of Mar. 18: :
Furthermore, when Horford is on the court, the team boasts an effective field goal percentage of 54.7 percent. When he is on the bench, that mark drops to 50.2 percent.
As a team, Boston’s EFG% has increased from 48.8 percent (24th in the NBA) last season to 52.4 percent (10th in the NBA) this season.
“He does present a lot of opportunities with his presence on the court,” said Crowder. “He’s a heck of a passer, of course, and he just knows how to play basketball the right way.”
The “right way” for Horford means playing unselfish basketball and trying to make his teammates better overall players. He’s owned that mentality for as long as he can remember.
“Ever since I started to play the game from a very young age, the reason why I got so interested in basketball and the reason why I liked it so much was because it was a team sport,” explained Horford. “For whatever reason I’ve always been a guy that likes to share, likes to play with the team, and, to me, it was really solidified when I got to (the University of) Florida and coach (Billy) Donovan wanted us to play that way. Then I saw that you can be successful by playing that way, and that’s something that I’ve tried to carry with me since.”
Horford has been able to exploit that mindset in Boston because Stevens’ system has allowed him to harness his playmaking skills.
He has already logged a career-best 272 assists this season, despite playing only 55 games so far.
After Wednesday’s win against Minnesota, Avery Bradley went so far to say that Horford “might be the best passer on our team. He’s one of the best passers in the NBA, to me.”
Horford was humbled Saturday afternoon when told of the praiseful remark.
“It’s a very high compliment from Avery,” Horford responded. “I want the guys to feel confident in their games and in themselves. And, for me, when I’m in position on the floor, it’s not necessarily that I’m the best passer, it’s just that I’m making the right play – the simple play – and just trying to make good reads out there.”
Horford’s exceptional ability to read a defense can often go undetected during the fast-paced nature of a basketball game, but his teammates and coaches have certainly observed the difference that his presence has made.
The Celtics’ offensive numbers have improved noticeably this season, and it’s no coincidence that their increased efficiency has directly correlated with Horford’s arrival to Boston.