If you were asked who the Boston Celtics’ best player was, the first names to come to mind likely would be Jayson Tatum or Jaylen Brown. If you’re a hipster, you’d pick between Jrue Holiday, Kristaps Porzingis or even Derrick White.

In the quest of finding the Celtics’ most valuable player this season, however, there’s only one who should come to mind: Al Horford.

In his 17th season, Horford is far from the Celtics’ best player, but there isn’t anyone on the roster who has contributed more to Boston’s winning ways in 2023-24. The 37-year-old’s value has been immeasurable, as he’s taken on a new (far from desirable) role in the quest to finally capture his first title while stepping up in the biggest spots.

The Celtics entered this season with a big question that needed to be answered, as folks wondered who would head to the bench after the additions of Holiday and Porzingis left Boston with six viable options to start. Horford quickly answered the bell.

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It would have been easy for the elder statesmen to demand he held onto his starting spot, but that was never an option. Horford volunteered to move to the bench in a semi-permanent role for the first time in his long career.

“That’s the ultimate sacrifice,” Tatum said in October. “Everybody knows how much I love and respect Al. A lot of guys say that they’ll do anything to help the team win, but Al is the epitome of that.”

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“A lot of guys say that they’ll do anything to help the team win, but Al is the epitome of that.”

Jayson Tatum on Al Horford

It didn’t take long for Horford to find his way back into the starting lineup, however, as Porzingis has recently been shelved with a calf injury. That’s allowed Horford to start two consecutive wins for Boston, where he’s averaged 11 points, 12 rebounds, 4.5 assists, 2.5 blocks and 1.5 steals on 50 percent shooting from the field. In his first start during Porzingis’ absence, the Celtics lost as he scored just three points and grabbed five rebounds.

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Do you see the correlation?

Horford is approaching 38, and still averaging 6.9 points, 6.6 rebounds and one block per game despite playing a career-low in minutes. He’s been everything the Celtics could have hoped he’d be in Year 17.

Featured image via David Butler II/USA TODAY Sports Images