Max Lederman

Turning down the heat on your Al Horford takes

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AP Photo

Turning down the heat on your Al Horford takes

Let’s start with a few disclaimers:

1.    I will not be naming the people whose takes I will be addressing. It’s not because I care about their feelings, it’s mostly because I’m not in that poor of a mood right now.

2.    I think it’s completely fair to criticize the performance of professional athletes, but I also think it’s completely fair for me to criticize your criticism. And you can criticize my criticism of the criticism if you feel like it in the comments below. Got it?

Let’s start with this tweet from earlier this week:

“When you're paying someone almost 30 million a year and he absolutely sucks against the teams you have to eventually beat to get out of your conference or even win a championship you have real problem!!!! i wish KG could turn back time and come back.”

Aside from the obvious -- KG’s not walking through that door -- this take got me thinking. Does Al Horford suck against the teams the Celtics will eventually need to beat to get out of the East? So I looked it up. 

Here are Al’s numbers vs the teams currently in playoff position in the Eastern conference compared to his overall regular-season averages.

As you can see his numbers are pretty close, and in most cases better,  against the East playoff teams, although averaging 0.2 rebounds fewer vs those teams probably means he’s mentally weak.

In the spirit of fairness, Al has only averaged 10.4 points, 6.2 rebounds and 4.2 assists in 5 meetings vs Toronto and Cleveland combined this season. Those are lower than his season averages; however, saying he sucks vs them is a bit of a stretch when you consider only 12 players in the NBA are averaging 10-plus points, 6-plus rebounds and 4-plus assists this season.

The part about his salary is comical because that’s what the cost of signing a max free agent was in the summer of 2016. You don’t get Horford if you don’t pay him. Max contracts are based on percentage of the salary cap, so as the cap goes up (like it did that summer) the salaries do as well. Max deals signed the summer before Horford’s will be less because the cap spike from $70 million in 2015 to $94 million in 2017. Context matters folks.
Moving on, this was in an article that was published by the Big Lead on Wednesday: 

"He’s the 11th-highest paid player in the NBA, but is the 105th in points per game (12.8), 36th in rebounds (7.5), 36th in assists (4.9)"

What my friend fails to mention is that, while those statements are true about his per-game averages, Horford is one of just nine players in the NBA to average 12-plus points, 7-plus rebounds and 4-plus assists this season. He’s also fifth in 3-point field goal percentage, third among centers in assists per game, fifth in Defensive Win shares and seventh in Defensive Box Plus/Minus. In basketball there really isn’t one stat to rule them all, so when making statements about a player’s worth it’s best to look at a broad swath of relevant categories.

My argument is the same about the money. Context matters, and that was the cost of signing the biggest free agent in franchise history (at the time).

And finally, my favorite take of all from a tweet I received on Wednesday:

“…the truth is he can't guard any good centers, being abused by elite centers, can't protect the paint, soft as [inappropriate non expletive]. He's trash if we talk about highest paid player.”

This one blew me away. Say what you want about Horford’s lack of aggression on the offensive end, or even his rebounding, but saying he can’t guard any good centers or that he gets abused by elite centers is just factually inaccurate. Take this for data:

Of the eight other bigs named to the All-Star team this year, Karl-Anthony Towns (62.5%) and Andre Drummond (69.2%. . .  nice) are the only two to shoot better than their season FG% when defended by Al Horford this season.

I understand that trolls are gonna troll, but it’s this type of lazy trolling that led to the sinking of the Titanic (google it). 

It’s fair to criticize players for poor performances, and Horford himself admitted he hasn’t been playing up to his own standards lately, but can we please keep the hot takes reality based? 

If you stumble upon any outrageous takes that seem a little too hot please drop me a line on Twitter @max_lederman.

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Jayson Tatum gets no respect!

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USA TODAY Sports Photo

Jayson Tatum gets no respect!

The popular narrative surrounding struggling Celtics rookie Jayson Tatum is that he’s hit the dreaded “rookie wall.” Another fun theory is that he’s been hampered by a dislocated finger suffered on December 20 vs Miami. One or both may be the cause of his dip in shooting since the start of this calendar year (he went from 58.5 eFG percent in 2017 to 46.2 eFG percent in 2018). But another factor could be respect, or the lack thereof, for Tatum when driving to the hoop.

MORE CELTICS

From October through December, Tatum averaged 4.6 drives per game, coming away with points on 77 percent of those drives (fourth in the NBA). A lot of those points came at the line, as Tatum drew a foul on an NBA-leading 15 percent of his trips to the basket. Since January 1, Tatum is averaging 6.5 drives per game, but is only coming away with points on 55 percent of those drives. Oddly, the Celtics forward is only drawing a foul on 6 percent of his drives over that span, which is 67th in the NBA.

It’s hard to say why he’s no longer getting fouls, but the lack of respect is definitely impacting his overall efficiency. Hopefully the zebras will start treating Tatum like the obvious future Hall of Famer he is in the final stretch of the season.

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A love letter from the Celtics for Marcus Smart

A love letter from the Celtics for Marcus Smart

Dear Marcus,

You’ve been gone for 21 days, but it feels like 21 years. Things just haven’t been the same without you, especially the Celtics' defensive rating, which was a league-best 99.8 before your departure and has been 103.3 since.

Like a true gentleman, you never hesitated to snatch the ball from an opponent if the team was in need. But now, it’s you that we need, because the Celtics are last in the NBA in steals per game since you’ve been gone.

Like an umbrella on a summer day, you never let the opposing team rain on our parade, helping the Celtics to the best opponent three-point shooting percentage in the NBA. We are drenched in your absence, falling to 20th in opponent three-point percentage in the 10 games you’ve been out.

Your sturdy presence helped guide our ship through the stormiest of weather conditions, but I fear the ship cannot hold. Four of the Celtics' eight worst defensive rating games have come without you. And we are drowning in a February swoon, with a defensive rating of 106.9, which is closer to the Cavaliers level than to our lofty standards.

Time heals a broken heart, and I hope in time you can return to heal our broken defense.

Love,

The Celtics