The Atlanta Hawks made some sweeping changes to their roster during the offseason and will enter training camp with many new faces in the frontcourt. How these pieces fit together and how Mike Budenholzer elects to use them will be an interesting thing to watch as the camp schedule plays out.
The frontcourt discussion clearly begins with two time All-Star Al Horford who returns as the anchor of the team. Horford set career highs last season in points (17.4) and rebounds (10.2) and the Hawks will be looking for continued growth this season. Horford will have a new running mate in the starting lineup as Paul Millsap slots into the power forward position replacing Josh Smith who bolted for Detroit. Millsap turned in another solid campaign for Utah last season and was one of the steals of the offseason. Horford and Millsap are entrenched as starters but what Coach Budenholzer elects to do behind them is unknown although there are a lot of options.
Elton Brand signed a one-year deal with the team over the summer and figures to be the first big man off the bench. Brand will likely see time at both the power forward and center positions but his experience would seem to give him a leg up on the others in the frontcourt competition.
The Hawks also claimed Gustavo Ayon off of waivers from the Milwaukee Bucks over the summer in a move that brings more size and another center potentially to the rotation. Its important to note that for various reasons Ayon didn't play a lot last season in Orlando and Milwaukee but when he did his numbers were good. Especially his advanced metrics where he posted solid rebounding rates. He has enjoyed a good offseason leading Mexico to a championship at the FIBA Americas where he was named tournament MVP.
The x-factor in the frontcourt picture could be Pero Antic whom Danny Ferry signed away from Olympiacos over the summer. Antic brings size at 6-11 and a deft shooting touch along with a high basketball IQ. From what I have seen he looks like more of a stretch 4 in the NBA but could possibly steal some minutes at center in the right matchup situations.
An option that many are forgetting is second year forward Mike Scott who played sparingly as a rookie but played well when he got the opportunity. If you look at Scott's numbers he actually posted the fourth highest PER on the team last season at 16.3. He was also was in the Top 4 in total rebounding percentage which suggests he is a better rebounder than he has been given credit for. Scott has also been working out at the small forward position this summer and could also figure in there.
This is also a good time to talk about the small forward position where the Hawks appear to be strikingly thin. As of now it looks like Kyle Korver and DeMarre Carroll will see most of the minutes at that position. Millsap and Scott could also see some time there but I am not comfortable predicting how much until I have a chance to watch the situation during the preseason. Four of the five players receiving non-roster invites to training camp by the Hawks can play the small forward position so the competition could be fierce and very important for a guy like Scott who is on a non-guaranteed contract.
The rest of the frontcourt picture begins with Horford and Millsap as the starters with Brand likely the first big off the bench. From there Ayon and Antic could be used according to matchups or depending on who picks up the system the quickest. Playing alongside Brand or Ayon will allow Horford to shift to the power forward position while both Antic and Scott provide options with a good shooting touch.
A lot of staggered substitutions appears to be a good bet with the frontcourt where Horford starts at center and shifts to forward when Brand or Ayon sub in for Millsap. Its a versatile and talented group although still somewhat mysterious in how they all fit together.
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- Al Horford at No. 22 in SI.com's Top 100 NBA Players of 2014
- Atlanta Hawks Training Camp 2013: Royel Ivey, Damien Wilkins receive invites per reports
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