Al Horford Carrying the Boston Celtics Through Injuries

BOSTON, MA - OCTOBER 24: Al Horford
BOSTON, MA - OCTOBER 24: Al Horford /

Al Horford is proving that this season is far from lost for the Boston Celtics

After a miserable start, losing the first two games of the season, the Boston Celtics were desperately searching for someone to really step up in the absence of Gordon Hayward, Marcus Morris and Marcus Smart.

There has been a bit of a collective effort. Kyrie Irving is having a dynamic two way impact, Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum have exceeded all expectations, and the second unit have given some surprising boosts.

That being said, there is one player who has stepped up in a way that is enabling things to work on both ends. Al Horford has been nothing short of superb, and he is doing it on both ends of the court.

Horford has been the best player on the Celtics to start this season, and it may not even be that close. He holds things together on both ends, bringing stability and control that otherwise wouldn’t be there.

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He is also one of the most effective and productive players on both ends. Horford understands what is needed out of him, and he has even brought his rebounding numbers up to a point where it is far from a liability.

Horford has taken some of the most impossible matchups in the league with Joel Embiid, Kristaps Porzingis and Giannis Antetokounmpo, and did a better job defending them than should be possible in today’s NBA.

He is a sneaky early defensive player of the year candidate, and that alone has allowed the Celtics to hold things together through injuries, and be able to handle this transition period without getting killed by their mistakes.

Then, on offense, there is nothing that Horford does not do. He has been arguably the most important passer on the team, and even a phenomenal 4.2 assists per game from a big do not tell the whole story.

He is the main facilitator, and he opens everything up for the rest of his teammates. He creates more space than anyone else, and he knows exactly here each player should be, so that he can find the open man when players crash on him, on the inside of the outside.

He has also been the best three point shooter on the team so far. 45 percent from deep may not be maintainable, but he is making it clear that he will stretch the floor as well as anyone in the league.

His intelligence while shooting is unmatched. He never takes the bad shots, and does not pass up opportunities by over passing. He knows when he is in a comfortable position, and he is killing teams who think that they can lay off him a bit, anywhere on the court.

It is easy to see how much better the Celtics look on both ends when Horford is on the court. He facilitates and creates freedom for everyone on both ends, and he makes fewer mistakes than anyone should expect out of a player that is as crucial as he is on both ends.

Horford has proven that he is comfortable playing in small ball situations, because that is how the Celtics get their best five man lineup out there. He has also proven that he will be great with another big, even if it is continually rotating, as Daniel Theis took the most recent starting position.

The Celtics are transitioning and most player still need to figure things out and get comfortable before they can be at their best. That is not the case with Horford. He is the one holding everything together, because he has the best understanding of what he needs to do and how he needs to accomplish it.

With Horford playing this way, the season will not be nearly as much of a disaster as many though after Hayward went down with an injury. The young players are the one that are bringing back the excitement to this season, and Horford is the one that can bring back the expectations.

Few people realized what kind of massive impact Horford had last season, because he was often overshadowed by Isaiah Thomas‘ heroics, and a box score that some people did not like.

This year, nobody is overshadowing him right now, because he is playing better than anyone else on the court  and is holding the most important role on the team so far.

On top of that, he is filling up the state sheet. His scoring is back up above 15 points per game, and he is looking like a sneaky double double threat with how his rebounding has increased.

Next: 3 Players Who have improved in Hayward's absence

It is easy to see how important Horford is for the Celtics, and it is going to stay that way. With the way he is playing now, if things come together with the rest of the players the way we are expecting, then they can still be as good as anyone else in the Eastern Conference.