Unfortunately, the NBA season is still at a standstill. With no end date in sight on the current suspension, many fans around the league have used this time to reflect on certain player’s performances during the 2019/20 season. Should LeBron or Giannis win MVP? Zion or Ja Morant for Rookie of the Year?
In the Philadelphia 76ers case, most of the season was surrounded in disappointment. We’ve already reviewed Ben Simmons, Joel Embiid, and Tobias Harris. So, now it’s time to look at arguably the most disappointing member of the 76ers’ roster.
Al Horford: 12.0PTS, 6.9REB, 4.1AST
When general manager Elton Brand made the decision to pay Al Horford $109 million dollars this past offseason, it raised quite a few questions. For starters, he was 33 years old. It was unprecedented to pay such an old player so much money, especially considering the contract was for four years.
Second, the fit made next to zero sense on paper. Horford had put up his best years playing as a center with both the Hawks and Celtics. He was used heavily as screener in the pick and roll, and would also distribute the ball out of the high post quite a bit. The Sixers obviously already had Embiid in the center role, and with Ben Simmons playing at an All-Star level, it made little sense to take the ball out of his hands when it came to passing.
The fans and media alike eventually bought into the idea, lauding the 76ers as having the “best starting five” heading into the regular season. Most projections had the team actually flat out winning the east. Riding their immense size down low all the way to the NBA finals.
Initially, things seemed to be working out just as Elton had drew it up. The 76ers started off scorching hot, and Horford even put up 32 points in a loss to the Suns in early November.
However, as the NBA began settling into the new season, it was clear that a problem was emerging within the Sixers. Al Horford was simply just not the same player anymore.
Currently, Horford is shooting 33.7% from three, down almost a full 10% from what he shot two years ago in Boston. Considering he’s acting as the Sixers’ “stretch four,” that’s incredibly concerning. With Simmons and Embiid on the court, the team desperately needed him to be an effective floor spacer.
Both Horford’s scoring and rebounding are bordering career lows, his free throw percentage is the worst its been in six years, his field goal percentage is currently at a career low (44.2%), and his defensive box +/- is down almost a full point from what it was during his 2018 All-Star season.
A lot of people have been quick to point their fingers at the head coach in Brett Brown, blaming his styles and schemes for Horford’s lack of production. While there is some merit to this, the simple truth of the matter is that this partnership was never meant to be. At 34 years of age, Horford has clearly begun his regression stage. He looks slow, lethargic, and can’t defend nearly as well as he could in the past.
He routinely misses open jumpers and even layups at times (yikes!). The team’s offensive rating plummets when he’s on the court with Embiid and Simmons, and his widely respected “leadership qualities” have been nonexistent.
He very publicly voiced his frustrations earlier in the season, raising concerns on just how active he was in some of the locker room issues plaguing the team.
With trade rumors already circling around the veteran big in just the first year of his contract, it’s pretty clear how the Sixers organization (and the rest of the NBA) views his value as a player.
As much as I want to give Horford an F, I’m not going to solely on the fact that he has had a few good games here and there.
Whenever the playoffs do start, there’s hope that he elevates his play to match what the team is paying him. However, based on everything he’s shown as a 76er thus far, a D- seems pretty darn fair.
Mandatory Credit – © Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports