The Atlanta Hawks once again made the NBA Playoffs this season, but made an early exit from the postseason as they fell in six games to the Indiana Pacers. This mediocrity has been the trend for years, but that seems likely to change this summer for the Hawks as they have a ton of free agents that will be leaving their team and will be restructuring their roster.
11 players on Atlanta’s roster will have the opportunity to test the free agent market this summer and a fair amount of them aren’t likely to be re-signed by the Hawks, including the much maligned yet talented Josh Smith. However, Al Horford will not be a free agent and will likely be the focus of the team going forward.
Horford had a breakout season this year and showed why the Hawks organization believes he can be a star as he averaged 17.4 points, 10.2 rebounds, 3.2 assists, 1.1 steals and 1.1 blocks on 54.3 percent shooting. The most impressive part of that might be that he played most of the season at center for the Hawks, despite his natural position being the power forward.
The reason Horford has been playing out of position is simply because the Hawks haven’t had a real serviceable center. This season the only true centers that they had on their roster were Zaza Pachulia and Johan Petro, neither of whom are great starting centers. To make matters worse, Pachulia was injured in the second half of the season.
As the Hawks look to rebuild, though, both Pachulia and Petro will be gone and the Hawks will really need to find a center. It would also be in their best interest to find an above-average center that can play big minutes so that Horford can get the majority of his time at power forward. The Hawks will also have the luxury of having a ton of room under the salary cap.
Given that, the Hawks should seriously consider targeting Al Jefferson who will be an unrestricted free agent this summer. This season Jefferson averaged 17.8 points, 9.2 rebounds, 1.1 blocks and one steal per game on 49.4 percent shooting. He is a high quality center in this league that has proven his value at the professional level.
Though there’s no indication of whether Jefferson would want to go to Atlanta, there’s no doubt that Jefferson should be targeted by the Hawks to try and enlist his services. They will undoubtedly have the financial flexibility to make it happen and Jefferson fits a serious need of theirs. It seems like a deal that needs to be done.