Pero Antic, Mike Scott Making Cases For Rising Stars Game
Pero Antic and Mike Scott have been two of the players on the Hawks that have been asked to play bigger roles after the Al Horford injury and both have excelled, helping the Hawks stay in the third spot in the Eastern Conference. As we near the All-Star break, both Antic and Scott have a case to be made for inclusion in the Rising Stars Game during All-Star Weekend in New Orleans.
Antic, the 31 year old rookie from Macedonia, has taken over as the Hawks starting center with Horford out. In 10 games played since the Horford injury, Antic is averaging 9.4 points and 4.9 rebounds in 22.9 minutes per game and has an effective field goal percentage of 61.1%. Antic’s presence on the offensive end as a floor spacer opens up the rest of the court for Paul Millsap to operate in the post or in opposite side pick-and-roll and Jeff Teague and Shelvin Mack to attack the rim and either score or facilitate.
Opposing centers have to respect Antic’s range as he is shooting 42.9% from the three-point line in the 10 games since the Horford injury on 4.2 attempts per game. Antic has been great in pick-and-pop plays, as he has developed a nice rhythm stepping out beyond the arc after setting a screen if his man hedges on the ball-handler. When Antic’s defender commits too hard on a closeout, he has one of the best pump-fakes in the league as he gets his man to leave his feet on nearly every pump, opening up a driving lane or passing opportunity.
On defense, Antic is a solid 1-on-1 defender in the post as he is able to use his size and length to hold his position against big post players. His help defense is still a work in progress, particularly in pick-and-roll plays, but the Hawks defense has not suffered much with Antic on the floor as the team has a 97.4 defensive rating with Antic on the court since Horford’s injury — this is helped by Antic playing most of his minutes with Millsap next to him.
Antic’s role prior to the Horford injury was as floor-spacer for brief stretches off the bench and he was (and still is) the designated inbounder late in games — which he’s been great at. Antic’s case for the Rising Stars Game has really surged in the past few weeks, particularly after setting career-highs with a 16-point game against the Pacers and then topping that with a 17-point performance against the Heat on MLK Day. Antic is currently fifth on NBA.com’s Rookie Ladder (as of January 15th) and with his strong play and the relative weakness of this year’s rookie class, he should be a near lock to make the roster pool of rookies.
Scott’s progression from his rookie season to his sophomore season has been massive as he’s gone from being an end of the bench player to a key role player and scorer off the bench. Last season, Scott appeared in just 40 games and averaged 9.4 minutes with 4.6 points and 2.8 rebounds per game. This season, Scott has appeared in 38 of Atlanta’s 40 games and is averaging 15.7 minutes (already 223 more minutes than last season) with 8.4 points and 3.3 rebounds per game.
In the last 20 games (10 before and 10 after the Horford injury) Scott has averaged 9.5 points and 3.3 rebounds in 17.1 minutes per game with an effective field goal percentage of 58%. Scott has 0.142 win shares per 48 this season, which is the most on the Hawks outside of Horford, and puts him in the top 10 of his draft class. Scott, like Antic, is a plus offensive player with some defensive issues, but he has shown growth on the defensive end this season as well.
Where Antic’s case is helped by a lack of depth in this year’s rookie class, Scott’s is hurt by the strength of his draft class. Anthony Davis, Damian Lillard, Bradley Beal, Andre Drummond, Miles Plumlee, and John Henson have all had terrific seasons, and figure to make the player pool for the game, but even still, Scott has produced at a rate this season that warrants consideration.
Scott and Antic have each had a tremendous impact on the Hawks this season and have stepped up to play bigger roles in Horford’s absence. Despite limited NBA experience, both players have become crucial parts of the Hawks’ team success despite losing their two-time All-Star center, and, whencompared to their peers in their respective rookie classes, each has the stats to make a case for their inclusion in the Rising Stars Game.
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