Who are the most crucial Atlanta Hawks players? Part 1

9 of 9

8.  Gustavo Ayon, PF 

Gustavo Ayon during Hawks media. (Scott Cunningham/NBAE/Getty Images)

There are two things about Gustavo Ayon that should jump right out at Hawks fans. One, he is not coming off Achilles tendon surgery and will still be out 1-5 weeks. Two, he does not have a three-year, $15 contract.

Ayon was brought to the Hawks as a replacement for Zaza Pachuillia, a longtime fan favorite in Atlanta. Pachillia missed a large portion of last season with Achilles surgery and left the team this summer, signing with the Milwaukee Bucks for an expensive $5-million per year. The Hawks got a steal with Ayon for $1.5-million per year. And, not only does he come cheaper than Zaza, he will be better than Zaza.

Hawks fans were unable to watch Ayon play at Philips Arena this season due to a shoulder injury. When he returns, I think Hawks fans will like what they see. He is a tremendous pick-&-roll player at both ends of the floor; is aggressive; and will not be afraid to battle in the post.

Gustavo spent this past summer leading his native country of Mexico’s national team to the FIBA Americas championship. Mexico will be competing in the basketball version of the World Cup next summer for the first time since 1974. Ayon scored 20 points and pulled down 16 rebounds in Mexico’s FIBA Americas championship game win over Puerto Rico, and was rightfully named the tournament’s MVP.

Check back tomorrow for the rankings of players 7-1.

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