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.