As great of a run as the Atlanta Hawks made in the postseason, one player was sorely missed. That player was Al Horford, and if the Hawks had him available in their first-round matchup against the Indiana Pacers they probably end up winning that series. Unfortunately they didn’t, but that doesn’t mean Atlanta can’t get excited about what the future holds.
A healthy Horford next year will provide a tremendous boost for a team that still managed to take the Pacers to seven games even without their NBA All-Star down low in the paint. His return for the 2014-15 campaign means the Hawks have a good chance to get back to where they were before he went down. At the time of his injury, they controlled the No. 3 seed in the Eastern Conference behind only Indiana and the Miami Heat.
Who knows; depending on what happens in the offseason, Atlanta might even be able to climb higher than the No. 3 seed. Horford’s return alone and the possible addition of another good player through free agency could make the Hawks a potential contender to the Heat’s recent reign of supremacy. This is especially true when you consider the numbers Horford was putting up in his first year under new coach Mike Budenholzer. The versatile big man was averaging a career-high in points per game with 18.6 while also bringing down an impressive 8.4 rebounds per game before his shoulder injury.
I see no reason why he can’t put up those numbers next season either. A shoulder injury is not the easiest thing to overcome, but the good news is that Horford didn’t injure the same pectoral muscle he did a few seasons ago. The shoulder injury he suffered this time occurred on the left side, which is his non-shooting shoulder, so that’s promising. However, the real reason the Hawks shouldn’t worry next year is because of Horford’s work ethic. His love and passion for the game of basketball is unbelievable, and he will make sure to be at his best in 2014-15.