If the Atlanta Hawks want to make the NBA playoffs this season, it’s going to take a total team effort after news of another season-ending injury. Today, the Hawks lost Gustavo Ayon for the rest of the season after the power forward/center underwent surgery to repair his right shoulder.
Ayon might not have been a key piece to the Hawks’ success in the early going, but lately he was providing crucial minutes for a team struggling to deal with so many injuries.
With no Pero Antic of late and no Al Horford for the remainder of the season, the 28-year-old gave coach Mike Budenholzer a great option down low to replace their production. Standing at 6-foot-10, Ayon provided Atlanta with another big man, who could rebound with the best of them as illustrated by his 4.8 rebounds per game in limited action.
However, he’s gone now, which means that Atlanta’s chances of making the playoffs takes a big hit as well. For the rest of the year, the Hawks will have to turn to the veteran Elton Brand and newly-acquired Mike Muscala in order to make a run for the postseason. Brand is more than capable of getting the job done as seen by his recent play as the primary big man down low, but at 6-foot-9 he needs to be playing as a power forward instead of a center.
Muscala is a bit of an unknown for the Hawks. In Spain, the second round pick of Atlanta was having a great year with his team, but that was against some weaker competition.
In the NBA, it will take some time for Muscala to adjust and no one knows how he’ll do up against the best players in the world. However, standing at 6-foot-11 it was worth the risk to bring him in immediately after news of Ayon’s injury. He not only provides the team with a big body, but like Antic, he can also space the floor with his ability to hit the long ball, which means the offense should run a whole lot smoother, too.
Currently, the Hawks sit at the No. 8 spot in the Eastern Conference standings with a couple teams trailing by a slim margin just behind them. Ayon’s injury means that the task will be a lot harder for Atlanta to even make the playoffs, but it’s definitely possible to do in a weak conference and with Antic’s return to the lineup at any minute.