Atlanta Hawks report card: Al Horford


The Atlanta Hawks were ousted in the first round by the top-seeded Indiana Pacers. After a fascinating seven-round battle with the top seed, there have been arguments back and forth on whether it was a successful 2013-2014 campaign for the Atlanta Hawks; some say they had overachieved, some say they underachieved. Over the next couple weeks, we will break down the Hawks season and we will dish out grades for each of the Hawks players. Who played well, who was a disappointment, who will be back next year? We will dish out everything you want to hear about the Hawks past season, and what is to come ahead.

First, some quick requirements. We will only feature players that played in at least 10 games with the Hawks this season, so sorry Jeremy Tyler, James Nunnally, and Antawn Jamison; you were all part of the exciting journey in some capacity, but that is all the pub you will get in our season recaps.

Being evaluated today is star big man Al Horford. 

On December 26th, Al Horford was operating as his vintage self, scoring 25 points on 11-17 shooting, but he went down with a torn pectoral muscle and would miss the remainder of the season, a huge blow to the Hawks. Horford had previously missed the majority of the season just two years ago as well. The Horford injury was extremely defining for the Hawks season, as they were 16-13 when Horford went down, and were in third place in the Eastern Conference, while Horford was leading the team in scoring. Outside of the deflating feeling of losing your best player for the entire season, we were all robbed from getting to see this team reach its true potential; it seemed as if Horford and Paul Millsap really complimented each other offensively, and Kyle Korver and Jeff Teague found life much more difficult without Horford’s presence on the floor.

Shining Moment: On December 12th, Horford posted what was probably the best game by any Hawk this season. Horford played 41 minutes in a two-point victory over the Washington Wizards. Horford scored 34 points on 15-23 from the field and pulled down 15 rebounds, and in addition, Horford had plenty of other huge games for the Hawks before he went down with the injury. In 29 games, Horford scored over 20 points 13 times, and the Hawks were 10-3 in those games. If we could do the opposite of a shinning moment for the Hawks this season, it wouldn’t be the repeated extended losing streaks, it would be the two point double-overtime victory over the Cavs, but losing Horford to a torn pectoral was really a defining moment for the Hawks this season.

Letter Grade: A-  In good conscience, I can’t dock points on Horford’s final report card because of his injury. Horford was elite before his injury, and nobody would argue that the Hawks season would have gone differently if it weren’t for Horford’s season-ending injury. The reason I can totally mess up the grading curve and issue an A- to a player that only played 29 games, is because Horford was having his best season as a pro. Horford was averaging 18.6 points per game (career high), and he was shooting 56.7% from the field (career best) with a 22 PER that was, again, the best of his career. Horford’s rebounding as a whole was down, but that could be attributed to the fact that the Hawks brought in players to play closer to the basket with the departure of Josh Smith. The contingency of Millsap, Ayon, Brand, and others came in and scooped up far more rebounds than Smith provided in the past. Much like the rest of his teammates, Horford was shooting more three-pointers this year than at any point of his career, although the sample size was extremely small Horford made more three-pointers this season (4) than in any of his other previous years.

2014-2015 season outlook: By all indications, Horford is getting healthy, and his rehabilitation has gone extremely well according to all media reports. With the off-season, it should be ample time for Horford to recover and come back at 100% next season. If Al Horford is healthy, there is no doubt that he is an all-star caliber player. The real excitement is to see what the combination of Horford-Korver-Millsap-Teague can do in an entire season, particularly with the strong on-court relationship between Horford and Millsap. Horford appears to be an extremely great fit in Mike Budenholzer’s offense, and there is no reason to expect any less than a full return to his previous production.