Will We See a New Al Horford When Play Returns?
Big news came out this week regarding the Sixers' lineup. Brett Brown told the media that he has been playing exclusively at the power forward position, and Shake Milton has been inserted to the starting point guard role. This means that Al Horford will be sliding to the second unit, but could this be a good thing for Horford and the Sixers?
The addition of Al Horford to the Sixers did not exactly pay the dividends that people hoped when he was first signed. He averaged 12 PPG this season, his lowest scoring number since his second season in the league. Also, his 33.7% from three is his lowest mark since the 2014-2015 season. But can this slide to the second unit salvage his season?
Looking at the numbers it might seem questionable, in the three games he appeared off the bench this season he averaged 6.0 PPG, 5.3 RPG, and 2.3 APG. Although those numbers are no eye-popping, his fit has looked better off the bench.
One game that stands out is when the Sixers faced off against the Clippers back in February. Horford posted nine points, six rebounds, three assists, and two blocks coming off the bench. This game was arguably the best Horford looked in terms of fit on a fully healthy Sixers roster.
There are multiple reasons why we could see a better version of Al Horford when the league returns. Before the suspension of play, Horford was starting to find a groove on the Sixers. In the last five games before the NBA season was paused Horford was averaging 16.0 PPG, 9.4 RPG, 5.6 APG, and was shooting 39.1% from three.
Horford will also now be spending almost all of his time at his natural position of center. We saw this year that he was much more effective playing at center than playing alongside Joel Embiid. This will also benefit him defensively now that he will not be put in situations where he will have to defend wing players on the perimeter.
The time off has helped Horford as well. These months off allowed him to rest his body and address any nagging injuries he had. It has also helped him find his voice with the team, as earlier this week Raul Neto mentioned that Horford has become more of a vocal leader in the return.
Brett Brown has also spoken highly of his veteran big. He also brought up how Horford has been more vocal since the team arrived in Orlando, and that he has been very competitive in practices.
A rejuvenated Al Horford can be huge for the Sixers. It looks like he has bought in on his new role and is working hard to change the narrative on how his tenure in Philadelphia has gone. Having a player with his experience and basketball IQ off the bench will be a boost for the Sixers in big games.