When the NBA announced the selections for the 2013 All-NBA teams on Thursday, the usual suspects were represented. Lebron James, the reigning MVP, was a unanimous selection on the 1st-team squad, and he was joined by “locks” such as Chris Paul and Kevin Durant. The veteran stalwarts were there as well, as Kobe Bryant and Tim Duncan took their rightful places on the 1st-team, and guys like Dwyane Wade and Carmelo Anthony made unsurprising appearances. However, there was a notable absence when the teams were announced.
The Atlanta Hawks were not represented.
At first glance, this wouldn’t be a shocking revelation, but frankly, I believe that the Hawks, and more specifically Al Horford, deserved a spot on the 3rd-team. While I have no issue with the 1st-team frontcourt of James, Durant, and Duncan, the 2nd- and 3rd-teams included players that simply were not as productive as Horford during the 2012-2013 season.
Blake Griffin, Marc Gasol, Carmelo Anthony (2nd-team), Dwight Howard, Paul George, and David Lee (3rd-team) were the six selections on the final two teams, and there is a case for Horford over (at least) four of those players. I will take no issue with the inclusion of Anthony (who led the league in scoring and placed 4th in PER), or Gasol (who was the defensive player of the year and anchor of a very good Memphis team), but Horford should have been the choice over each of the other four.
It may seem like a stretch to say that Horford was better than Dwight Howard this season, but a quick look at the numbers indicates that it isn’t a stretch at all. Horford averaged more points (17.4 to 17.1), more assists (3.2 to 1.4), and posted a higher PER (19.84 to 19.48) than Howard this season, and did so while being the best player (and leader) on his team versus Howard’s existence as the second banana and sideshow in Los Angeles. Horford also outperformed Howard in the more “advanced” metrics, such as EWA (estimated wins added) and VA (value added), and the overall case shows that Horford was the more valuable player.
Aside from Howard, Horford makes cases that are just as compelling over Blake Griffin (higher FG%, more rebounds, more blocks), David Lee (who is a terrible defender who failed to match Horford in any advanced metric), and George (who shot 42% to Horford’s 54% and produced a PER that was 2 full points lower).
There could be 1,000 words written on the subject, and frankly, the All-NBA teams are almost never representative of the best 15 players from the league during that season. Whether it is a case of reputation exceeding production (Blake Griffin, Dwight Howard) or narrative pushing the voting (George, Lee), an underrated, quiet leader such as Al Horford will continue to get penalized as the Hawks organization toils in anonymity. There were similar injustices (where is Brook Lopez?!) elsewhere, but I hope that one day, in the near future, Al Horford will take his rightful place among the game’s elite.