Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Sports Illustrated ranks Al Horford ahead of Kyrie Irving on 'Top 100' players list

Alex Reimer
September 13, 2018 - 9:05 am

The Celtics haven’t opened up camp yet, and we already have our first “Average Al” debate of the season. Joy to the world. 

Sports Illustrated recently unveiled its annual top 100 NBA player list. Six players on the Celtics made the cut, which speaks to their elevated status entering the 2018-19 campaign. The Celtics are championship favorites, returning the same team that took the Cavaliers to seven games in the Eastern Conference Finals, and adding a healthy Kyrie Irving and Gordon Hayward to the mix. As we know, both players missed the playoffs, and Hayward missed the entire season.

Despite Hayward’s extended absence, SI ranks him as the No. 25 player in the league –– ahead of Jaylen Brown (No. 47) and Jayson Tatum (No. 39). Terry Rozier checks in at No. 82 overall, speaking to the overall depth of the Celtics' roster. While Rozier stepped in admirably for Irving last season, he will likely struggle to find minutes late in contests, with Irving and Marcus Smart healthy. 

Speaking of Irving, SI places him at No. 17, one selection behind Horford. In the final paragraph of its writeup on Irving, SI references his season-ending knee injury, saying his personal progress "all went poof" when he went down. The All-Star guard has now missed 21 percent of his team’s regular season games in his career. 

“As the former No. 1 pick progresses through his prime, health clearly represents the last major hurdle separating him from an annual spot on the All-NBA teams and a consensus ‘Top 10’ reputation,” SI writes.

Horford, meanwhile, is lauded for his consistency and basketball acumen. “If (Horford’s) influence didn’t bear out through his own individual defense, it would in the way he directs traffic,” the article says. “Even if he wasn’t in a position to make plays, Horford would intuitively screen or space the floor for others.”

It’s apparent SI gives Horford much of the credit for the Celtics’ incredible playoff run without Irving and Hayward, comparing him to Draymond Green. While it’s difficult to argue with that, Irving is the more impactful player when healthy. Thus, from this vantage point, he should be ranked higher than Horford –– even though his health remains a question.

This argument will never be settled.