Atlanta Hawks center Al Horford comes in at No. 25 in SI.com's Top 100 NBA players list for the upcoming season. Horford in many ways has been an afterthought given that he missed all but 29 games of last season. Back healthy he should provide the anchor at both ends of the floor that the Hawks missed down the stretch. Here is what Rob Mahoney had to say about Horford:
So much of what Atlanta runs was schemed with Horford in mind. His post play and passing offer an inlet for a team of perimeter shooters; his balance between pick-and-pop and pick-and-roll keeps the offense flowing and varied; his solid all-around defensive play covers for failings elsewhere; his ability to guard centers allows the Hawks access to lineup combinations that compete defensively while maximizing their offensive potential. More succinctly, Atlanta draws heavily on the fact that Horford is essentially a player without weakness.
Two pectoral injuries in three seasons has masked just how good Horford really is. As Mahoney points out, when you consider that everything Atlanta did offensively and defensively was built around Horford it was rather remarkable that they were able to stay in the race for as long as they did after he went down.
The Hawks will get that versatility back this season and add another high percentage shooter to the attack.
With his complete game, Horford can play either power forward or center in almost any system. Horford belongs to the rare subset of big men who can both carry a defense and credibly space the floor (he hit 49.2 percent of his mid-range shots last season and even made a few corner threes). He is hyper-flexible for the purposes of roster construction, allowing his team to chase the best frontcourt partner available without concern of fit. Atlanta opted to sign Paul Millsap, but one could just as easily place Horford alongside a big man of any kind. His game is eminently agreeable, which for a player of such remarkable skill makes Horford quite a catch.
If you asked me today what I'm looking forward to seeing the most next season it would be seeing Horford back in uniform and healthy while playing for the Hawks.