Atlanta Hawks’ Top 5 Performers: Dec 30 – Jan 5
Atlanta Hawks' Top 5 Performers This Week
It's been a couple of weeks since I've done my top five performers of the week for the Atlanta Hawks, and man have things changed drastically for the Hawks. In the short span of a couple of weeks, Atlanta went from a team poised to contend with the best in the Eastern Conference, to a team struggling to find an identity due to the loss of their star center Al Horford for the rest of the season. His loss not only shakes up my list of the top five performers, but without Horford, the Hawks' chances of even making the playoffs just became a lot harder as well. I do believe Atlanta will make the playoffs despite his absence, but in order to do that, players must step up to fill the void left by their All-Star center.
So far, only a few players have really stepped up to the plate and elevated their games to the next level in order to make up for the loss of Horford this week, in my opinion. I thought some of the bench players would take this opportunity to show coach Mike Budenholzer what kind of talent they have to offer, but frankly, most of the bench players failed to show anything besides maybe one or two guys. The starters are the ones who have picked up their production the most in the short time without Horford. However, going forward, Atlanta needs more than just the starters and one or two bench players to pick it up, the whole team must raise their games after witnessing the games this week.
The lone win came on the road against the Boston Celtics in their first game of the week. In their next two games, Atlanta went win-less, suffering two tough, gut-wrenching defeats to start out the new year. The Hawks competed hard in every game this week and easily could have gone undefeated, but a lack of execution in the defeat to the Chicago Bulls and a heart-breaking buzzer beater by Andre Iguodala of the Golden State Warriors ended those hopes. Despite a 1-2 record, a number of players stepped up their game in order to replace the loss of Horford, as you will see with my list of the top five performers of the week for the Hawks.
5. Mike Scott
Mike Scott is definitely one of the two bench players who picked up his game since Horford's injury. This week, Scott had three impressive performances offensively for the Hawks, scoring double-digit points in two games and really showed the coaching staff why he has a case for more playing time. However, if Scott wants to play more minutes, he needs to show the ability to rebound the ball better, because right now, Atlanta needs all the rebounding help possible.
4. DeMarre Carroll
DeMarre Carroll may have only played in two out of the three games due to an injury, but he really made his imprint on the game when he did play. Against Golden State, he recorded 12 points, seven rebounds and four steals in a great effort that should have given the Hawks a win if not for a late buzzer beater. In the next game against the Bulls, Carroll did much of the same going for 10 points, seven rebounds, four assists and three steals in another gutsy performance that ended up in a close defeat. His hustle on both ends of the floor will be needed for the rest of the season if the Hawks want to make the playoffs.
3. Pero Antic
The Macedonian, Pero Antic, continues to impress in his new role since Horford's injury, and I truly believe he needs to start at center the rest of the season. Antic can essentially do it all for the Hawks. He can shoot the three-ball, rebound and pass the ball, which makes him the perfect fit to replace Horford. In his first career start, Antic scored a career-high 16 points and grabbed seven rebounds in tough defeat to the Warriors. If he can provide those type of performances going forward, Atlanta should easily make the playoffs.
2. Jeff Teague
Jeff Teague did not have any breakout performances this week, but he continues to be consistent for the Hawks. His best performance came in the win over the Celtics, where he contributed 16 points, six rebounds and five assists in order to pull out the comeback win on the road. In the other two games, Teague played well, putting up numbers very similar to what he did at Boston. His level of play will be vital to the Hawks' success down the road, since the team no longer has their big man down low.
1. Paul Millsap
Wow, what a week for Paul Millsap. He had three double-doubles in all three games and has proven to everyone around the league that he is now the No. 1 option on this team. Millsap's performance on the road against the Celtics is the reason Atlanta won the game in the first place. In the game, he dominated Boston scoring 34 points and grabbing 15 rebounds rebounds in a spectacular performance for the Hawks. He did not score as much in the next two games, but he has proven to the Atlanta coaching staff that he can take this team and put them on his back for the rest of the season. Millsap is a stud, and if he continues these type of performances he should earn a spot on the NBA All-Star team.