|Al Horford’s game winner against the Wizards- Game 5 of the Eastern Conference Semis|
Al Horford entered his eighth season in the NBA as well as with the Atlanta Hawks with high hopes. The Hawks were coming off a number one seed in the Eastern Conference as well as an Eastern Conference Finals appearance for the first time in franchise history. Hawks fans and the organization was gearing up for a highly anticipated 2015-2016 season. Unfortunately, the Hawks struggled to sustain the success they had during the 2014-15 regular season last year and battled in the middle of the Eastern Conference Playoff Race until the final day of the regular season.
Inconsistencies from key players were one of the critical reasons Atlanta couldn’t maintain the success of their magical 60-win season. Horford was at the center of attention from media outlets as well as many fans throughout the year. It wasn’t his offensive game that warranted criticism from the Hawks, but Horford’s style of play changed from what many were accustomed to throughout his NBA career. Another significant decline was in Horford’s overall production which diminished at an alarming rate. Although Horford averaged (15.2) points per game, assists per game (3.2) and rebounds per game (7.3) for the second straight season, his field goal percentage declined to (50.5%) where it was (53.8%) last season.
|Al Horford’s three pointer against Utah|
Al Horford was the subject of trade rumors around the Trade Deadline of the season after speculation were rising from the Hawks camp of the front office possibly breaking up the core. Earlier in Horford’s career, he was known around the league as an undersized center that would mix it up and bang with any opposing big throughout the NBA. Notably, Horford had five seasons of averaging nine or more rebounds per game prior to the 2012-2013 season. Since 2012, Horford has only averaged around seven rebounds per game in seasons where he was fully healthy. Missing on the two or three rebounds probably isn’t a huge deal to many fans; however, in the grand scheme of Atlanta’s system throughout an 82 game season most games come down to two or three possessions, it’s due to the lack of inside presence in the paint for the Hawks.
In defense of Horford’s change of play this season, in Mike Budenholzer’s third year at the helm, he asked the All-Star center about expanding his range to the three-point line stretching the opposing defense. That change could be a huge reason why there was a lack of inside presence from Al Horford thoughout the season. Injuries have derailed two of Horford’s eight seasons in the NBA and the adjustment of his style of play in order to prevent further injuries could have been a smart business decision from the coaching staff and front office. As a die hard Hawks fan, after taking that analysis into consideration, that could have saved Horford’s career long-term.
|Al Horford dunks on Kevin Love|
Horford posted another solid year during the 2015-16 NBA season averaging 15 points per game, dishing out nearly four assists per game, and not to mention shooting over 50% from the field and 35% from the three-point line. You look at those numbers and ask why are there concerns on whether the Atlanta Hawks would re-sign Horford? I have that answer for you; there are many rumors emerging that he will demand a max contract and take up a potentially large amount of the salary cap that could be used to go after a “Superstar”. With the aging roster and decline in his defensive and rebounding numbers, critics question whether the front court of Al Horford and Paul Millsap have reached their peak. If the Hawks have to move on from him in order for our organization to flourish and continue to develop a championship roster, I’m all for the changes.
Despite my displeasure with Horford’s performance in playoff games over the last few appearances, there is no questioning his love for the city of Atlanta and the Hawks fans. Also, Horford’s passion and dedication he puts forward each and every night is one any franchise would love to have in one of their star players. Al Horford is a future Hall of Famer in my opinion and played a key role in the re-birth of Hawks basketball for years during the . Whatever happens, I will support this franchise and I will always be grateful to Al for everything he has done and accomplished with our franchise.
Michael Thomas (@ChosenOne_MT10)