You can't look back on Al Horford's 29 game 2014 season without thinking what might have been for the Atlanta Hawks. When Horford went down on December 26 the team was in third place in the Eastern Conference and would have to do without its leading scorer, rebounder and best defender for the remainder of the season.
When you talk about Horford you talk about efficiency and he was well on his way to one of his best seasons of his career. His 18.6 points per game average was the highest of his career as was his 57 percent shooting mark from the field. That was accomplished by playing four less minutes per game than the previous season.
Horford and the Hawks appeared to be hitting their stride in December as it looked like they were finally getting comfortable with Mike Budenholzer's system. Horford averaged 21.1 points and 9.1 rebounds in 11 games in December. Ever consistent, he scored in double figures in all but one of the 29 games he played in. His model of consistency is illustrated in his shot chart.
As a team, Atlanta averaged a season-best 109 points in December while shooting 47 percent from the field. They handed out a season-best 27.9 assists in those 14 games. Defensively Horford is the team's anchor in many ways. He is their best pick and roll defender. For the lack of size he has as a center he makes up for it with his speed.
Atlanta did well to keep its head above water for a period after losing Horford but eventually succomed to more injuries to the frontline. Budenholzer said in late December that it would take some time for the club to figure out how to play without Al. His absence had a direct effect on how teams were able to defend Jeff Teague, Paul Millsap and Kyle Korver for the remainder of the season.
Horford's rehab is well underway and he should be ready to go when training camp rolls around next season. Per ShamSports.com, he is signed through 2016 at an affordable $12 million per. To this point, the Hawks have rebuffed any offer for Horford and he is always included as being part of the team's core when Danny Ferry speaks about the club. He may not be untouchable however, and with his contract year looming, the two lost seasons to torn pectorals has to be factored in.
Don't expect to see Horford going anywhere in the short term as he is a perfect fit for Budenholzer's offense and was just beginning to put everything together. Getting a healthy Al Horford back will be the biggest acquisition this team makes this summer.