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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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