MNO Sports >Basketball Hub >NBA Stats Notebook: Why Al Horford is the Celtics' playoff X Factor

NBA Stats Notebook: Why Al Horford is the Celtics' playoff X Factor


Professional basketball players are in a constant state of datacollection. Al Horford's been logging tricks of his trade for 16years, and it's helped him reinvent his game to suit a team in thetitle hunt.

Horford, age 36, will be the fourth-oldest starter andfifth-oldest rotation player in the 2023 NBA playoffs, behind onlyLeBron James, Chris Paul, PJ Tucker and Kyle Lowry. He hasdramatically transformed his game to suit the era and needs oftoday's league, and the Celtics have taken note.

After a March 1 win against the Cavaliers, coach Joe Mazzullaalluded to Horford's evolution, heightened by his experience andattention to detail.

“It’s massive,” Mazzulla said postgame. “He’s done a great jobthis year in recognizing coverage and screening. ...And herecognized the coverage [the Cavaliers] were in and popped and shotit. The second time they tried to switch him, he created anadvantage. He’s constantly trying to find small ways to reinventhis game.”

Horford is averaging his highest minutes per game (30.6) of thelast five seasons, but his on-ball role has diminished tocareer-lows according to practically every go-to metric (usagerate, touches, touch time, etc.). He's played five total seasonswith the Celtics across two stints; comparing his usage acrossthose years is fascinating. Here's some touch data from PBP Statshighlighting three such years: his All-Star season in 2017-18, hisfirst season back in Boston in 2021-22, and this current one.

YearTouches/gameFrontcourttouches/gameElbow touches/gamePost touches/gameSeconds per touch2017-1863.540.

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