BOSTON – For most of his career, Al Horford has been regarded as one of the league’s better defensive big men, even if he didn’t have the accolades or league-wide acknowledgment… until now.
The veteran forward/center was named to the NBA’s All-Defensive Second team on Wednesday, a first for the 11-year veteran.
Utah’s Rudy Gobert and New Orleans’ Anthony Davis were the headliners on the first team which included Philadelphia’s Robert Covington, New Orleans’ Jrue Holiday and Indiana’s Victor Oladipo.
Along with Horford, the second team consisted of Jimmy Butler of Minnesota, Joel Embiid of Philadelphia, Golden State’s Draymond Green and San Antonio’s Dejounte Murray.
What aided Horford’s selection was the fact that he showed a level of defensive versatility that we had not seen during his time with the Atlanta Hawks or with the Celtics last season.
Look no further than this postseason run by the Celtics, one in which Horford has defended versatile wings like Milwaukee’s Giannis Antetokounmpo as well as big point guards like Philadelphia’s Ben Simmons.
“In the past I was probably guarding the bigger centers,” Horford said.
The addition of Aron Baynes in the offseason was instrumental in Boston’s ascension to the top of the NBA defensive pile with a league-best defensive rating of 101.5.
And Baynes had a defensive rating of 97.0 which led the NBA among players to appear in at least 50 games this season.
“Baynes being here really gave me freedom to defend out on the perimeter, do different things,” Horford said. “It was a challenge that I was really excited about going into the season.”
Boston’s Marcus Smart and Jaylen Brown were among those to receive votes but not named to the first or second team.
Celtics head coach Brad Stevens was pleased for Horford being acknowledged for what he did for the Celtics defensively but added there were a number of others on the Celtics roster that deserved consideration for all-NBA honors defensively with chief among them being Baynes and Smart.
“I realize you can’t take multiple people from one team,” Stevens said. “But those guys all, along with our young guys, everybody was really committed on that end of the floor all year, and it was led by those three (Baynes, Horford and Smart).”