Season Review: Pero Antic

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.

After a lengthy career in Europe, Pero Antic made the decision to join the Hawks this past offseason for his first NBA season at age 31. Coming into camp the Hawks had a crowded frontcourt, led by Al Horford and Paul Millsap, but Antic was able to find his way into the rotation with his ability to space the floor and passing. Once Horford went down, Antic became an increasingly important part of the Hawks rotation, becoming the starting center next to Millsap. 

For the season, Antic averaged 7.0 points and 4.2 rebounds in 18.5 minutes per game in 50 appearances (26 starts). Antic shot 41.8 percent from the field and 32.7 percent from three-point range on 3.4 attempts per game. Antic was never going to fill Horford's production or even the same role, but he did an excellent job of carving out his own role in Coach Budenholzer's offense, and his presence in the starting lineup was crucial in the Hawks making the playoffs.

Antic's three-point shooting had the ability to lift the Hawks' offense and get the rest of the team going. He made three or more three-pointers in seven games this season -- Hawks were 4-3 in those games -- and did so in both of the Hawks' regular season victories over the Pacers. Antic's most memorable three-pointer came against the Bobcats, when he launched a one-footed, off balance three in the closing seconds that tied the game and sent it into overtime, where the Hawks would go on to win. 

Antic struggled with his shot in the playoffs against Indiana, but his impact was evident, particularly in getting Roy Hibbert out of his game. Antic's presence outside the three-point arc forced Hibbert and the Pacers' bigs to step out of the paint, which helped to open up space for the rest of the Hawks' offense to operate. 

After the Horford injury, the Hawks were a completely different team with Antic in the lineup (16-16; 13-13 with him starting) than when he was out  (5-14) due to injury. His impact on the game was huge even when he was having a poor shooting night. His spacing opened up driving lanes for Jeff Teague and the rest of the Hawks' guards, and also created space for Millsap to operate. The Hawks' offense scored 102.8 points per 100 possessions with Antic on the court and 99.5 points per 100 possessions with him off the court for the season. 

On defense, Antic improved over the course of the season, and the Hawks' team defense was much better in the second half of the season with him on the court than without him. With him on the floor, the Hawks allowed 1.039 points per possession on 45 percent shooting compared to when he was off the floor where the Hawks allowed 1.101 points per possession on 46.9 percent shooting, per nbawowy.com

The Hawks owe much of their success this season to players stepping up into bigger roles than they were expected to play at the beginning of the year. We've already detailed how Elton BrandMike Scott and Shelvin Mack did that this season, and Antic certainly falls into that same category. Antic was a bit of an unknown coming into the season with questions about how he would adapt to the NBA game, but he certainly adapted well and became one of the key players for the Hawks' postseason run.

Story by Robby Kalland