Hawks Season In Review: Al Horford

Lucas Armstrong/Atlanta Hawks

Note: We use stats per 36 minutes instead of stats per game on the graphics. The reason behind that is stats per 36 tell a more complete story of how a player did while he was on the court, as opposed to per game stats which averages a player’s stats based on the number of games that player appeared in, regardless of how many minutes he played. The per 36 minutes compares all players equally by taking the minutes played out of the equation to measure the most effective players during their time on the court.

Al Horford got off to a tremendous start to the 2013-14 season, posting a career-high 18.6 points per game along with 8.4 rebounds, 2.6 assists, and 1.5 blocks through 29 games. He was shooting 56.7 percent from the field and had a 22.0 PER, both career-highs as well. Horford looked like a lock for his third All-Star appearance and had the Hawks solidly in the third position in the Eastern Conference.

That all came to a grinding halt in Cleveland on Dec. 26, when he tore his right pectoral muscle in the fourth quarter of an eventual double-overtime victory when he, seemingly innocuously, reached out while defending an inbound pass. Horford’s loss was huge for the Hawks, as they struggled to replace his production and leadership on the floor. The team did well in his absence, holding onto their playoff spot and pushing the Pacers to seven games in the first round, but it was hard not to think about what could have been.

With Horford, the Hawks were three games above .500 and in command of third in the East. Offensively, Atlanta was terrific prior to the Horford injury both moving the ball and shooting. They were tops in the NBA in assists per game at 25.9 per game, ranked fourth in the NBA in FG% (47.1%) and eFG% (52.6%), and were 10th in the NBA in offensive rating at 104.7. On defense, the Hawks had the 13th best defensive rating (102.3) prior to Horford’s injury and had a net rating of +2.4.

The loss of Horford definitely put a damper on the Hawks’ season, but that first 29 games — a stretch during which they were still learning Coach Bud’s system on the fly — offered a glimpse into the potential of this team when healthy. Horford is looking at the injury as an opportunity to continue improving, saying that it gives him a rare opportunity to work on his game for a full year. When Horford spoke to the media a few months back, he noted that it would force him to develop his left-hand on offense — something he said he’s always avoided — and hoped that he would come back with a more developed and refined offensive game.

The Hawks can’t wait to see the big guy back on the court and healthy next fall for training camp, and Horford will be looking to make up for lost time next season alongside Paul Millsap, Jeff Teague, Kyle Korver and the rest of the crew.

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