Comeback Player of the Year: Al Horford

This award goes to a player who before this sea­son, or in parts of the sea­son seemed to be ‘done/washed up/finished/a shell of his for­mer self/past his prime’ because of injuries, a career slump or just a bad sys­tem fit.

Al Hor­ford isn’t par­tic­u­larly flashy. He isn’t a dev­as­tat­ing offen­sive force, but he can play both out­side and inside with equal ease and a solid pass­ing instinct that stops the offence from gum­ming up when he touches the ball. He isn’t nec­es­sar­ily men­ac­ing defender. In fact he’s slightly under­sized for the cen­ter posi­tion, but he has great defen­sive instincts and dis­ci­pline to anchor a solid team defence. He makes up for his lack of  mind-blowing ath­leti­cism with quick feet in being able to show and recover against oppos­ing guards, and strength to guard the big­ger 5s in the east. He doesn’t have any one dom­i­nant skill or weapon, but he doesn’t have any dis­cernible weak­nesses either.  And he is always steady. But it is this very steadi­ness that came into ques­tion at the start of the season.

After los­ing a good part of two of the last three sea­sons to injury, Hor­ford started the 2014–15 sea­son off a bit slow. The “have we already seen the best of Hor­ford?” ques­tions quickly sur­faced along with anx­ious spec­u­la­tion about whether he was doomed to be another ‘what if’ tal­ent derailed by early injuries.

But as he got back into game shape, the hawks took off, pro­pelled by the per­fect do-everything player pow­er­ing the mul­ti­ple mov­ing parts of their equal oppor­tu­nity offen­sive machine.

He doesn’t put up eye pop­ping stat lines, but he’s always con­tribut­ing, always steady, always win­ning — giv­ing ‘The Spurs East’ their own ver­sion of the big fun­da­men­tal. And it just takes a look at the Hawks’ win totals, a fran­chise record 60 wins this year (they were 22–33 with­out him last year), to see his real value.

Dev Kabir Malik has a clinically alarming dependence on basketball and spends most of his time watching, analyzing, writing and even playing a little pickup (and some 2K too). In the little time he has left, he dabbles with design, art & music.