Mandatory Credit: Curtis Wilson-USA TODAY Sports

Gustavo Ayon: An Atlanta Hawks Free Agency Steal?

With only about two more weeks until the Hawks begin training camp, its been fairly quiet in terms of news across the Association. However, with the final minutes of FIBA Americas now complete, attention is now turned back to the Atlanta Hawks with the exceptional play of Gustavo Ayon and the MVP award to show for it. What was initially considered another unimportant addition to the roster is now leading many to believe the Hawks found a gem in the big man from Mexico.

Many fans may still be wondering exactly who is Gustavo Ayon. The 28 year old big man has only been in the NBA since  2011, however, he has played professionally in Mexico as well as Spain and Venezuela. Ayon’s contract was bought out in December of 2011 and he signed a three year contract with the Hornets. Ayon played 54 games for New Orleans in the 2011-12 season averaging 20.1 minutes a night before being included in Ryan Anderson’s sign and trade the following offseason. He started last season with the Orlando Magic, appearing in 43 games where he played 13.3 minutes a night, before being included in the deadline deal sending J.J. Redick, Ish Smith and Ayon to Milwaukee. He appeared in 12 regular season games for the Bucks as well as 3 games during the first round series against the Heat. During the offseason, the Bucks decided to exercise the option included in Ayon’s contract, but later waived him. He was claimed off of waivers by Atlanta on July 29th.

Ayon has been more of a role player in the NBA and his career line of 4.8 points, 4.9 rebounds in 16.7 minutes a game shows just how he may be overlooked by the casual fan. His FIBA performance may show that there is more to him than once thought. Gustavo led Mexico to their first gold in 35 years, averaging 17.2 points and 8.4 rebounds. With the tournament now behind him, many are wondering if these numbers could translate into the approaching season. If his play is earning some media attention, it should have grabbed the attention of the front office as well and the team may look to test him during training camp and he may seem more time into preseason. The 6’10” PF/C brings a more physical game and will likely share minutes with Al and Elton Brand at Center with some time at PF. Ayon may see more playing time during the regular season than during his time in Orlando and Milwaukee. With a strong preseason, he could earn similar playing time to his season with New Orleans. During his time with the Hornets, he averaged 5.9 points and 4.9 rebounds per game and reproducing these numbers would be solid contribution off of the bench. It should be noted, however, that these numbers could have been the product of the learning curve Gustavo endured during his first season and it is certainly possible that he could produce better in the same amount of playing time as he enters his third NBA season.

Gustavo will be watched closer than ever before during training camp and preseason and the competition for minutes in the frontcourt will be stiff with the likes of Mike Scott, Elton Brand and Pero Antic also looking to impress. So just how much of Gustavo Ayon will fans see this year? We’ll start to get a clearer picture on October 1st, when the Hawks begin training camp in Athens.

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