Atlanta Hawks center Pero Antic's value has never been easily quantified by his offensive numbers. He has been celebrated by the coaching staff for the many intangibles that he brings but his offensive struggles of late appear to be having an effect on his overall performance.
Antic has had an up and down season offensively to say the least. He shot just 27 percent from three-point range in November but upped that to 31 and 33 percent over December and January, respectively. However, he has gone off the cliff so far in February, shooting just 21 percent from the field and 1-of-11 from three-point range through seven games. Go back a bit further and Pero is just 6-34 from deep over his last 15 contests.
Early on, the Hawks could justify playing Antic because the team was performing well with him on the floor. He carried one of the highest net ratings on the team throughout the first part of the season. Antic's +/- of 3.0 is still sixth best on the team despite his recent struggles. However, the team is no longer performing well with him on the floor.
Antic's +/- for February is -3.7 +/- and his net rating for the month is -13.6. He's clearly aware of his offensive struggles and as you can see in the video below is hesitating on his shot despite being wide open.
As the video also shows, teams are recognizing his struggles and aren't paying nearly as much attention to him on the defensive end of the floor. The coaching staff, and Mike Budenholzer in particular, have gone out of their way to laud Antic for the many intangibles he brings to the court. The numbers have supported that even when he wasn't shooting the ball well.
That has led to many questioning why he is still getting minutes. The short answer for that is that he still has the trust of Budenholzer. Antic's minutes have dropped to 12.2 in February down from a season-high 17.7 in January so that is a sign that the coaching staff is aware. Those wishing for Antic to be dropped from the rotation entirely though may be disappointed.
Budenholzer was asked about Antic's recent struggles following Tuesday's practice and once again reinforced that his value can't always be measured from his line on the box score.
"It's the same thing we've talked about since Pero got here," Budenholzer said. "He does so many other things well. I do like it when he shoots it and it goes in. That would be preferable. I do think, (with) some people, there is too much emphasis put on him shooting - making, not making. When you look at his impact on the game and all kinds of different statistical things, he is a huge positive. We tell him to keep shooting. We believe in him and he'll make shots."
Budenholzer has been reluctant to use Elton Brand for anything more than spot duty. The Hawks are high on Mike Muscala but have been reluctant to give him any meaningful minutes. Some will question Budenholzer's stubbornness regarding Antic, but often those are the same people that ask for a traditional center after a loss and celebrate Atlanta's pace and space system after wins.
For now, Antic is going to keep getting minutes and it doesn't sound like Budenholzer is considering any other alternatives.