4. Al Horford, PF/C
Al Horford jumps to win the opening tip against Indiana. (Scott Cunningham/NBAE/Getty Images)
The only reason Al Horford is not higher on this list is because he is a proven commodity. Hawks fans, and astute NBA observers, already know what they will get from Al Horford — All-Star caliber play.
Horford is the unquestioned leader of the Hawks as they head into the season. He is the team’s best player and will be a strong presence. I expect Horford to represent the Hawks in this season’s All-Star Game.
Horford, who is already efficient 15-20 feet from the basket, should continue to get shots from mid-range. The Hawks figure to be a pick-and-roll focused team offensively. Get used to seeing Horford setting picks for Teague and Schroder, and popping out for a jump shot.
On defense, Horford will still have to play a bit out of position. Ever since his rookie season with the Hawks, he has been asked to defend opposing centers, at a size and strength disadvantage. With the arrival of Paul Millsap, Elton Brand, Gustavo Ayon, and Pero Antic; Horford may not have to draw such difficult tasks as often. There will still be at least some minutes every night, however, where Al has to guard a bigger player.
Horford had developed a great playing relationship with former Hawk Josh Smith. It remains to be seen if he will find such continuity with the newly acquired Paul Millsap.
Millsap, like Horford, is an intelligent player. I expect the two to gel nicely, and need little time to do it.