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Past Fantasy Outlooks
Horford’s first year in Boston resulted in a few statistical quirks when compared to his nine years in Atlanta. His scoring declined to 14.0 points per game, following a four-year trend. His rebounding declined half a board to 6.8 per game, a career low. This was odd, considering Boston’s dire need for rebounding help (Boston ranked 27th in team rebounding). Big Al’s assists increased dramatically to 5.0 dimes per game, despite a career average of 3.1 dishes. And the center drained 1.3 treys per game, proving his 2015-16 three-point shooting was no fluke. Clearly, Horford adjusted his game to fit Boston’s schemes and coaching preferences. Coach Brad Stevens prefers hustling back on defense versus selling out for offensive rebounds. Horford’s per game drop in boards were all lost on the offensive side. Coach Stevens likes bigs who can dish from the elbow, and Horford delivered by leading all centers in assists per game. Finally, everyone knows the Celtics like to shoot threes.This season, Horford will further adjust his game to accommodate free agent prize Gordon Hayward. Expect Big Al’s scoring opportunities to further decline, though we may continue to see his assists rise. Some believe Stevens might experiment with Horford at power forward and Aron Baynes at center. On the other hand, the Celtics could go small with wings such as rookie Jayson Tatum at power forward. If so, Horford will have a chance to reverse his declining rebounding numbers. At this point in Horford’s career, though, the 31-year-old Horford is playing for a shot at the Finals, not glamorous stats.
Horford's nine-year run in Atlanta came to an end this offseason when he signed a four-year, $113 contract with the Celtics. The four-time All-Star has developed into one of the better two-way centers in the league, and he's coming off of a season in which he averaged 15.2 points, 7.3 rebounds, 3.2 assists and 1.5 blocks per game. Horford appeared in all 82 games for the first time in his career and has missed only six games since undergoing major shoulder surgery in 2014. He wasn't quite as efficient from the floor (50.5% FG) as he's been in the past, but that was due in part to a drastic increase in three-point volume. After attempting just 65 total treys through the first eight years of his career, Horford hoisted 256 triples last season, converting at a very respectable 34.4 percent clip. That ability to space the floor will be welcomed in Boston after the Celtics ranked 11th in three-point attempts, but 28th in three-point efficiency last season. Horford figures to supplant Amir Johnson as the starting center and should serve as the team's No. 2 offensive option after Isaiah Thomas. For fantasy purposes, Horford has a shot at ranking among the top options at his position, particularly if he's able to increase his rebounding numbers, which have waned a bit in recent years.
In his eighth season, the former Florida Gator earned his third All-Star selection, posting averages of 15.2 points, 7.2 rebounds, 3.2 assists, 1.3 blocks, and 0.9 steals in 31 minutes per game through 76 regular season games. Playing the fewest minutes per game of his career, Horford scored 15.2 points per game on 12.7 shot attempts per contest, cashing in on 54 percent from the field, 31 percent from downtown, and 76 percent from the charity stripe. In 2012-13 and 2013-14, he went a combined 7-of-18 from beyond the arc, resulting in somewhat inflated and misleading percentages. However, Horford made 11-of-36 from downtown in 2014-15, showing he was comfortable and confident from the corner spot. During 16 playoff games, Horford averaged 14.4 points on 13.2 field goal attempts, 8.6 rebounds, 3.7 assists, 0.8 steals, and 1.4 blocks in 33 minutes per game while shooting 51 percent from the floor, 22 percent from deep, and 75 percent from the free-throw line. The 6-10, 250-pound big man, who turned 29 in June and is entering the final year of his current contract, sat out of the FIBA Americas qualifying tournament in order to rest and recover for the 2015-16 season.
Horford is one of the NBA's top bigs when healthy. Unfortunately, he hasn't been healthy much in recent seasons. A completely torn pectoral muscle ended Horford's 2013-14 season in late December, limiting the All-Star to just 29 games played. A similar injury cost him all but 11 games of the 2011-12 season, but between those two injury-ravaged years, Horford put together his best all-around performance as a pro, averaging 17.4 points, 10.2 boards, and 3.2 assists while shooting 54 percent from the field. It seems fair to ask whether the Hawks are taking an unnecessary risk with Horford by lining him up at center almost exclusively. At 6-9 and 245 pounds, Horford is undersized for the position. For years, there have been rumors that Horford would prefer to line up at power forward, but with Paul Millsap established at power forward and the equally-undersized Pero Antic as the only other nominal center on the roster, it appears the Hawks will roll the dice with Horford at the five most of the time. Another, less-serious concern is Horford's free-throw shooting. His percentage from the line peaked at just shy of 80 percent in 2010-11 but dropped to 64 percent in his career year of 2012-13, and it was under 70 percent again when the injury ended his 2013-14 campaign. Horford has been cleared to begin shooting and is expected to be ready to participate fully in training camp, but he didn't play for his native Dominican Republic in this year's FIBA World Cup this summer.
Just one year removed from an injury-ravaged 2011-12 campaign where he was forced to miss nearly the entire season with a torn pectoral muscle, Horford was able to bounce back and put together a career-year in 2012-13. The 27-year-old big man posted career-highs in scoring (17.4), rebounding (10.2), steals (1.1) and minutes (37.2) in 74 appearances. His usage rate climbed to 21.8 percent, and his 23.5 efficiency rating was good enough to rank ninth overall in the league. The only area of Horford's game that dipped last season was his free-throwing shooting (64 percent), but with a career mark of 74 percent at the charity stripe, he should bounce back in that area. The Hawks brought in a pair of big men (Paul Millsap, Elton Brand) via free agency, but the departure of Josh Smith means Horford is now the unquestioned leader of the team. As the face of the franchise, Horford is a great bet to repeat his success from last season with the possibility for even further improvement.
After suffering a torn pectoral muscle during the 11th game of the year, Horford spent the rest of the 2011-12 regular season on the shelf. In the 10 regular season games Horford played from start to finish, he was his normal productive self, averaging 13.1 points, 7.5 rebounds, 2.4 assists, 1.4 blocks and 1.0 steals in 34 minutes per game. He returned to average 15.3 points, 8.3 rebounds 1.3 blocks and 1.3 steals for the final three playoff games of the postseason without showing any effects from the injury. Horford even played for the Dominican Republic National Team this summer, so the pectoral injury appears to be behind him. Things will definitely look different when he rejoins the Hawks for the 2012-13 campaign, though. Atlanta had a massive roster overhaul, which included trading away Joe Johnson and Marvin Williams. With Johnson gone, in particular, the Hawks will need other players to carry their offense. Horford, along with Josh Smith, will now be the center pieces for the Hawks’ new attack, so don’t be surprised if Horford easily surpasses his career-high mark of 12 shot attempts per game set during the 2010-11 season. Increased usage rates usually mean good things for a player’s fantasy value.
Horford continued his steady climb into elite territory for fantasy big men last season, averaging a career-high 15.3 points while grabbing 9.3 rebounds per contest. While those averages don’t jump out of the box score like some of the game’s other top double-double options, Horford more than makes up for it with his all-around production. His 3.5 assists per game led all center-eligible players, and his shooting percentage from the floor (55.7) and the charity stripe (79.8) were also among the best at the position. He also chips in with steals, averaging 0.8 per game, which ranks among the top-10 for center-eligible players. The lone area in which Horford was somewhat of a disappointment was defending the rim. While his 1.0 blocks per game were nothing to shrug at, it’s quite a bit off the 1.3 swats he averaged in his two previous seasons combined. In his fifth season, and still just 25, Horford is just now entering the prime of his career. With Joe Johnson getting older and less effective on offense, Jamal Crawford possibly leaving via free agency and Josh Smith failing to establish himself as a go-to option, the Hawks will lean on Horford even more this season.
Horford is developing nicely, as he posted career-highs in ppg (14.2), rpg (9.9), FG% (55.1) and FT% (78.9) last year during his third season in the league. While last year's 1.1 bpg wasn't great for a center, his 2.3 apg and 0.7 spg both were. Horford got better as the season progressed, averaging 15.5 points and 10.7 rebounds over the second half of the year (he actually grabbed 11.9 rpg during the final month of the season), and further improvement should be expected in 2010-11, which could lead to monster numbers from this star in the making. And to think, some called for the Hawks to draft Mike Conley in 2007 because they needed a point guard. If Joe Johnson and his 18-plus field-goal attempts per game had left via free agency, it would have definitely boosted Horford's value, but even so, his role in Atlanta's offense simply has to increase moving forward. There's been talk about using him more at power forward this year, which is his more natural position and should only help his numbers. Horford is someone to target.
Horford started off the 2008-09 campaign slowly, as the 23-year-old center battled ankle and knee injuries prior to the All-Star break. The injuries caused him to miss 15 games during his sophomore stint, but he recovered fully and returned to showcase the skills of a nightly double-double threat by averaging 13 points and 10.6 boards over the final 29 games of the regular season. His improved offensive game was a result of a bump in his shooting percentage to 52.5, due mostly to an improved 12-15 foot jump shot. He also improved his defensive output, picking up 1.4 bpg and 0.8 steals per game while cutting back on his fouls. The Hawks only addition to their frontline this offseason was veteran power forward Joe Smith, leaving Horford and Josh Smith to continue seeing the majority of action. As the primary option in the post, Horford should see an increase on his 8.9 field-goal attempts from last season. At 6-10, 245, Horford lacks prototypical size and is void of a go-to offensive move, but he makes up for it with a strong work ethic and high basketball IQ. As Horford continues to refine his game, his numbers should grow across the board.
Horford was billed as one of the safer picks in the 2007 NBA draft, and he didn’t disappoint as a rookie by averaging almost a double-double on good shooting percentages. At 6-10, 245, Horford pairs with Josh Smith to give the Hawks a slightly undersized but extremely athletic young front line that outruns and outjumps the opposition. Horford has upside to improve his scoring as a sophomore as he develops post technique to complement his athleticism and the Hawks start to run some plays for him. Horford also showed in the playoffs that he has a leader’s mentality and will not back down from the big stage, which gives him potential star quality even beyond his physical gifts. He did not show much as a rookie defender with less than one block and one steal per game, but he’s got the wingspan and quickness to produce in those categories as well.
Horford was billed as one of the safer picks in the 2007 NBA draft, with an NBA body and lots of championship experience at the NCAA level. This translates in fantasy terms to mean that he should be ready to produce numbers fairly quickly. The newest and most talented big man on the Hawks roster, Horford could be a double-double threat on any given night if he gets the playing time. He was a solid defender in college, but projects as only an adequate shot-blocking threat in the NBA. His best-case scenario fantasy-wise would be if the Hawks decided to go small-ball to get all of their talented wing players on the court at once, which could possibly sneak Horford into center eligibility later in the season. Whether that happens or not, though, Horford still has upside and should be one of the handful of rookies who merit consideration on draft day.
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