Atlanta Hawks fans scoff when their center seems scarcely appreciated, and they might find themselves guilty of undermining him as well. After all, centers who can create for themselves and others, defend multiple positions, and hit the boards respectably are beyond a rare commodity. But such is the life of 2x All Star and living shadow, Al Horford. You might ask yourself exactly how does a player of Horford’s talent frequently go unappreciated? Feel free to ask the crowd pleasing, constantly brooding, power forward known as J-Smoove. Unfortunately, Joe Johnson wouldn’t be available for comment unless you felt like taking field trip to Brooklyn.
As a result, Johnson leaves a pretty gaping hole for the Hawks, one that won’t be easily replaced. However, it also gives the bright lights of The Highlight Factory a new place to shine. Fortunately, for Phillips Arena their front court isn’t a shabby place to start. While Smith will bask in the limelight, Horford’s hard work, tireless effort, and basketball IQ will start to shine through as a pillar of consistency.
Ferry gave us a small preview of what is to be expected with Atlanta’s offense next season in an interview with Jeff Schultz of the Atlanta Journal Constitution. When speaking of Atlanta’s offense, Ferry stated:
“The ball will be in Devin Harris’ hands a lot and Jeff Teague’s hands a lot. We’ll have space for them to attack the rim. We’ll play through Josh a little more. We’ll use Josh and Al to pick-and-roll or post up. We’ll be fun to watch.”
Playing through the post will give Horford an opportunity to play within the flow of a pick-and-roll, something Horford thrives at. If the Teague’s defender slips under the pick, Horford has the speed to roll quickly and play in a comfortable isolation situation. Whereas, if the defenders switch on the pick, both Harris and Teague have a quick enough first step to beat their man and finish or draw a help defender.
More or less, the Atlanta Hawks offense should be relatively simple. An in and out, pick-and-roll offense is what basketball was built on, and there is a reason it works. Which should allow head coach Larry Drew, a defensive specialist, to focus more on his defensive schemes. Seeing as Drew oddly had the opposite effect last season, orchestrating a creative offense and a bit to be desired on defense. Atlanta we’ll certainly need all the attention on defense the staff can give being undersized and guard heavy, because we probably won’t see Kyle Korver locking down Lebron James or Kevin Durant any time soon. So that attention to defense should give Horford another opportunity to thrive. And although Smith is obviously the more physically capable defender, Horford is extremely underrated. He moves his feet beautifully on defense, and has an uncanny awareness as we saw this year in game 6 against the Celtics.
All that said, it’s easy to forget Horford has yet to enter his basketball prime. At 26 years old he may not be making SportsCenter very often, but Horford has all the tools necessary to lead the new-look Hawks into a bright future. And in doing so, finally become recognized as the heart of Phillips Arena.