Al Horford's injury news is unfortunate for an Atlanta Hawks team that looked like it was really starting to come together. While the team hasn't announced how long Horford is expected to be out but some estimates center on about four months. That would almost perfectly coincide with the end of the regular season or the start of the playoffs.
A bump on the road with this injury, but I will focus to get back more focus and better!— Al Horford (@Al_Horford) December 28, 2013
In the meantime, the Hawks must go on and have a back-to-back starting on Saturday at home against Charlotte and ending Sunday in Orlando. So who is likely to see an uptick in minutes going forward?
Gustavo Ayon seems like the best bet to move into the starting lineup at this point. Elton Brand may be playing the best of any of the reserve bigs but bringing him off the bench allows Mike Budenholzer to control his minutes easier.
Ayon has already started two games this season and has the length and size to be a starting center. He must show that he can remain healthy as he has been hampered by shoulder and ankle injuries already this season. He is not anywhere close to being the offensive force that Horford is and will be confined to the post for much of his offensive touches. Ayon is in the final year of his deal and has a lot of incentive to show the Hawks or another NBA team that he is capable of handling the starting center duties.
Elton Brand's role likely doesn't change that much other than he could see an uptick in minutes. He is already one of the team's best big man defenders and rebounders. However, Brand has yet to play more than 19 minutes in a game this season. If Coach Budenholzer opts against starting Ayon then Brand is the likely starter.
Pero Antic has seen minutes at the power forward and the center position this season and is another player that figures to get a bump in minutes thanks to Horford's injury. Antic's game is much more perimeter based all though he has not shot the ball well (38%) so far this season.
The Hawks are likely to start a true center but we could also see more small lineups in the wake of Horford's injury. Budenholzer has at times gone with three guard lineups of late and we could see Paul Millsap slide over to the center spot alongside someone like Mike Scott in certain situations.
In layman's terms there is no replacing Al Horford for the Hawks but they will attempt to apply the best band aid available. Expect to see Coach Budenholzer experiment and tinker with his lineups and rotations over the next few games to see where the pieces fit.
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