The Boston Celtics are stacked on the perimeter, but they're relying on an undersized 32-year-old center to hold the team together.
Al Horford is the Celtics' engine, and his unique skill set defines Boston's identity on both ends. That became evident during last year's Cinderella playoff run, when Horford willed the team to within one game of the Finals despite the absences of Kyrie Irving and Gordon Hayward.
Horford led the effort to eliminate the Milwaukee Bucks with his 26 points in Game 7, he thoroughly outplayed Joel Embiid in the second round, and then bullied Kevin Love in the Eastern Conference finals. Irving and Hayward's perimeter skills are wonderful luxuries, but Horford's ability to guard all five positions while also stretching the floor and creating for his teammates is a necessity.
It's no coincidence that Boston's underwhelming performances this season have mirrored Horford's struggles. The veteran is averaging the fewest points, rebounds, and assists during his three-year run with the Celtics, which could all be tied to a nagging knee injury. Horford has sat out his team's last six games due to patellofemoral pain syndrome, and the Celtics have gone 3-3 over that stretch, including a 120-107 thrashing at the hands of the Bucks.