The overriding discussion surrounding Al Horford concerns his pending free agency. That, of course, makes a great deal of sense given the wide-ranging impact that his future employment could have on the Atlanta Hawks as a whole, but in terms of the 2015-2016 season, one things remains abundantly clear.
Al Horford is pretty darn good.
During his age-29 season, Horford appeared in all 82 games, playing more than 2,600 minutes in total and reaching the All-Star game for a second consecutive season. Though his numbers will never paint the full picture of his impact, Horford averaged 15.2 points, 7.3 rebounds and 1.5 blocks per game, and he did so while shooting better than 50% from the floor and an impressive 34.4% on 3.1 three-point attempts per contest.
The concept of a "max player" is a moving target, especially with today's salary cap environment, but Al Horford certainly qualifies given what we saw from him in 2015-2016. Atlanta's offensive system places a premium on versatility and shooting, and Horford provides both, with a knockdown mid-range offering and impressive range that he displayed for the first time this season. Defensively, he isn't the traditional (read: old-school) center that lumbers around the interior, but Horford is an above-average defender in the pick-and-roll that doubles as a rim protector that is far better than he is given credit for at this stage.
Because he doesn't average 20 points and/or 10 rebounds per game, Horford is often snubbed by fans and (some) pundits, but he remains an excellent player. His presence allows the Hawks to succeed wildly on both ends of the floor (including a 98.1 defensive rating when he played this season), and Horford also profiles as a player who will age quite well, given his low-to-the-ground play offensively and his brilliant positioning on the defensive end.
It is unavoidable to discuss Horford's contract status as he enters unrestricted free agency, and every Hawks fan is looking to the future with regard to the soon-to-be 30-year-old big man. At this point, it feels incredibly safe to say that Horford is "worth" the max contract (in the $25 million range) that he is set to make in the first season of that prospective deal, but the issue comes into view with his age and the fact that most deals of that magnitude increase in value each season. The Hawks will have a sizable decision to make, one way or another, with Horford in the coming days, but aside from that, he is one of the top 30 players in the NBA by any objective measure.
That is pretty valuable, and for good measure, Al Horford just might be the best Atlanta Hawk since Dominique Wilkins. Let that marinate for a bit.