The 31-year-old rookie from Macedonia signed a one-year contract with the Atlanta Hawks that included a second-year team option in case the Hawks wanted to bring him back. Well, after seeing Pero Antic perform this season, I think it’s safe to say that Atlanta wants him to return. Antic might have struggled offensively in the NBA Playoffs, but you can’t ignore the job he did filling in for the injured Al Horford.
When the Hawks’ NBA All-Star went down with a season-ending shoulder injury early in the year, coach Mike Budenholzer had to find someone capable of stepping in and producing right away. He tried a couple of different options at first such as a smaller lineup with Mike Scott, but when that didn’t work coach Bud then tried out Gustavo Ayon and Elton Brand. However, none of these players were able to make quite the impact their coach was looking for in a starter.
So he turned to his last option left, and man did it pay off in a big way. When Budenholzer inserted Antic into the starting lineup as a center, he instantly made his impact known. The Macedonian was the perfect fit for the Hawks. Not only could he go down low and rebound against other big men because of his 6-foot-11 frame, but he also possessed the unique ability to knock down the outside shot as a center. There are not many players with his size who can hit a three-pointer like him, and it really helped make the Atlanta offense run again without Horford.
With Antic on the floor, coach Bud’s offensive system worked great. His offense is based around being able to spread the floor in order to create spacing, and the only way to do that is if you have players who can knock down the outside shot. Luckily for Budenholzer, that’s exactly what he got when he inserted the Macedonian into the lineup. Antic’s ability to hit the three really opened things up for his teammates, because he forced the opposing team’s center to step out of the paint in order to challenge him; and in turn this allowed for more spacing and open lanes to take advantage of.
Atlanta went 13-13 with him in the starting lineup after Horford went down. This might not sound like a big deal, but you want to know what the Hawks’ record was without him? They went an abysmal 9-18 when Antic didn’t start at center, which is just plain awful. For this reason, Atlanta has to keep him on their roster. His 7.0 points and 4.2 rebounds per game don’t seem like much, but he was a difference-maker in terms of wins and losses. Put him behind a healthy Horford next year as well, and the Hawks have arguably one of the best backup centers in the league.