Hawks Move On Without Pero Antic
In case you missed it, Pero Antic is out 2-4 weeks with a stress fracture in his right ankle. The news couldn’t have come at a worse time for the Hawks, who were just starting to figure things out after the season-ending injury to Al Horford. Once again, Atlanta will have to start over, likely with Gustavo Ayon assuming the starting center role until at least All-Star break.
Although there is no replacing Horford, Coach Bud was running a unique offense with Antic at center because he was able to stretch defenses out past the three-point line with the threat of his perimeter shot. In a sense, the Hawks actually created more space after Horford’s injury because Antic is more of a three-point threat. Ayon, meanwhile, is like Horford in that he can make mid-range jumpers but won’t shoot from behind the line.
The Hawks’ challenge now will be finding ways to continue to open driving lanes for the guards and wing players. Ayon can still play the pick-and-pop game with Jeff Teague and others, but it may be more crowded now.
Defensively, Antic was a good rim protector because of his length. Ayon hasn’t really had an opportunity to show what he can do, so this will be his first chance to get consistent minutes. Elton Brand, who has excelled off the bench, should get an even more expanded role now, and Mike Scott’s minutes should go up too.
The Hawks lose Antic at a time where they face a very difficult schedule to close the first half. Games against San Antonio, Detroit, Indiana and Chicago seem a lot more daunting now because of those teams’ inside games. If Atlanta can stay afloat until the break, they should be okay once Antic gets back, as the schedule softens a bit. Fortunately, stress fractures heal quickly and often completely, so it’s good that the medical staff caught this when they did.
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