During the 2011 season, Al Horford once again continued an upward arc in terms of his development for that Atlanta Hawks. Horford was named as an All-Star for the second straight season and was elected to the All-NBA third team as a center. Horford averaged 15.3 points and 9.3 rebounds a game while shooting a notch under 56 percent from the field this season.
Offensively Horford didn't add the post game that many were hoping for but did improve a jump shot that made him the most consistent shooter on the team. His jumper became a valuable weapon for the Hawks in a variety of pick and pop situations where he was a tough match up for opposing bigs. He possesses the quickness to put the ball on the floor and drive past much slower defenders and now only needs to polish his back to the basket game to take the next step offensively. He thrived in Atlanta's motion offense raising his assist total to a career high 3.4 per game.
During the playoffs, Horford's scoring (11.3 pts) and shooting (42%) dipped considerably although his assist and rebounding totals stayed in line with his regular season averages. He seemed to lose confidence in his jump shot as opposing defenses worked much harder at taking that away. The playoffs showed the most where Horford needs to become more fluid in the post with his back to the basket. While he adequately has a jump hook, he tends to become mechanical down low and needs to develop a strong counter move to make him even more dangerous.
Jason Collins relieved Horford of some of the burden of playing the center position over the course of the season but he looked worn down in the playoffs as he battled some nagging injuries down the stretch. How much impact those had on his postseason performance only Horford really knows.
At the beginning of last season Atlanta signed Horford to a 5 year, $60 million contract extension thus making him, along with Joe Johnson, one of the pillars that the franchise will be built around in the near future. Reportedly, conversations between Atlanta and Minnesota surrounding the No. 2 pick ended when the Timberwolves asked for Al Horford instead of Josh Smith. Simply put, this guy isn't going anywhere anytime soon.
Looking long term at Horford and the Hawks, he seems like a bargain as a player that is capable of playing the center position on most nights. After all it was at that position where he was elected as third team All-NBA. He would be a luxury at his more desired power forward position. Sure Atlanta would probably like to add a more prototypical back to the basket center but those that can be acquired are few and far between.
Already the Hawks have expressed interest in retaining the services of Jason Collins which if successful will likely put Horford back in the role he was in this season as a part time center and power forward depending on match ups. That isn't such a bad thing for Atlanta.
The challenge that Larry Drew does face is incorporating Horford into the offense more. He was by far Atlanta's most efficient scorer last season but was fourth on the team in shot attempts. If Atlanta doesn't resign Jamal Crawford then in theory that would free up some touches that could go Horford's way. This is where Atlanta needs Horford to improve his post game to help balance out an offense that was perimeter based last season.
Playoffs aside, Al Horford was one of the most reliable players for the Atlanta Hawks in the 2010-2011 season.