There is a sharp divide between fans and pundits on how to evaluate Pero Antic. The consensus seems to be that more casual fans simply cannot understand the intrinsic value that Antic brings to the table, while focusing on his 36.5% shooting and subpar raw numbers, and on the other end of the spectrum, more intricate followers of the sport can appreciate his underlying skills in screen-setting, post defense and general under-the-radar positioning.
On Wednesday night, Antic provided a little bit for everyone. The backup center scored only 8 points in 13 minutes, but all eight points came during a five-minute stretch in the third quarter, prompting a certain writer to proclaim that we are all simply residents in Pero Antic's world. Amid the obvious sarcasm there, Antic did remind everyone of what he is capable of throughout the night, and it wasn't just the scoring binge.
Paul Millsap had this to say about Antic's play:
"Pero was great for us, man. When he's doing that... it's not just making shots. He does it on the defensive end. He's a great post defender. I felt like he forced Brook into some tough shots. He helps us out a lot. It's not just the scoring. When he scores, it's just an added bonus for us."
Millsap seems spot-on in saying that any scoring punch is an "added bonus", and no one from the Hawks organization expects Pero Antic to score at a lethal rate. Much has been made of his 30.1% three-point shooting, to the point where some fans harken back to the days of Josh Smith with hushed "nooooo" expressions when Antic gathers for a three-point attempt at home. Still, Mike Budenholzer referenced Antic as "such a smart player" in Game 2's postgame, and the organization continues to be pleased with the spacing that their backup big man provides.
At this point, fans will either appreciate Pero Antic or they will not. I've come to this realization in the past few days. Still, Budenholzer and his team greatly value his contributions on both ends of the floor, and any notion that Antic will fade from the rotation is a misguided one.
We'll be seeing a lot more of Pero Antic during what will (hopefully) be an extended playoff run.