The Hawks losses came to a few quality opponents like Golden State and the Memphis Grizzlies. Without Horford, the Hawks have still won games over great opponents like Houston and Indiana.
With Horford down, a few concerns were how the Hawks would replace not just his offensive production, but also his defensive presence. Many fans screamed for an Omer Asik trade with the Rockets or with any team for a true center.
The problem is bringing in a high production center will cost the Hawks. The Rockets wanted Paul Millsap for Omer Asik and other teams could demand a pivotal piece of the Hawks future in a player like Dennis Schoeder. The improvement short term isn’t worth the potential we lose for the future.
The answer for the Hawks comes from within. Coach Budenholzer has found the answer in Pero Antic and Elton Brand.
Since Horford’s injury, Antic and Brand have both stepped up and play big productive minutes. In Atlanta’s 118-116 OT win over Charlotte, Antic hit a buzzer beating, one-legged three to tie the game and force OT. As a result to Horford’s injury, Antic’s minutes increased from 10.5 to 22.7. Antic also spreads the floor similarly to Horford because they are both productive shooters, especially for big men. Antic has shot 41.7% from three since his minutes increased.
Brand has also seen an increase in minutes, jumping from 11.7 to 19.4 per game. Brand has been efficient shooting 52.9% from the field. Even at his old age, the former 1st overall pick has proved he can still play some defense. He was huge in Atlanta’s wins over the Pacers and the Rockets. He frustrated Dwight Howard and Indiana’s Roy Hibbert on the offensive and defensive ends.
One disappointment for the Hawks has been Gustavo Ayon, the former Mexican league star who was brought in earlier this season. Early in the season, Ayon lost his spot in the rotation and didn’t see many minutes. Since Horford’s injury, Ayon has played a total of 30 minutes while not scoring a single point. Overall Ayon has been a no show and will quickly see his role even further diminished with the flourishing of Hawks second year PF Mike Scott.
Obviously replacing an 18 PPG and 8.6 rebounds per game guy isn’t easy, but the Hawks shouldn’t consider throwing away pieces for the future when they have internal options. The facts are the Hawks, while being a rebuilding but very polished club, don’t stand a legitament chance against the East’s elite in Indiana and Miami in a seven game playoff series.
The Hawks future is bright, so why risk throwing it away for a slightly better playoff series and an annual first or second round playoff elimination?