By Ryan McNeill
Fresh off a season which saw him garner his first All-Star appearence, you would think the Atlanta Hawks would keep using Al Horford the way that saw him have a lot of success last season.
After all, he averaged 14.2 points while shooting an impressive 55.2% from the field and 9.9 rebounds per game.
However, the old saying “If it’s not broken, don’t fix it” clearly doesn’t apply to how his new head coach, Larry Drew, wants to use his talented big man.
Last year a lot of Horford’s touches came with his back to the basket but this year he’s getting a lot of his scoring opportunities through pick-and-pops or open looks on the perimeter.
Despite being forced to set up shop further away from the basket, Horford’s field goal percentage has risen to 60% over his first 18 games of the season.
“What we’ve done with Al (Horford) is we’ve utilized his ability to step out on the perimeter and shoot the ball,” Drew explained to HOOPSADDICT.com. “Last year we played him predominately in the post and we ran plays for him where he played with his back to the basket. I see him being a more effective guy in situations where he is allowed to face the basket and shoot the ball.”
Even though Horford has played with his back to the basket since his high school days, the transition this season has come relatively easy for him.
“The more I play, the more comfortable I feel,” Horford told HOOPSADDICT.com. “I feel like I’m able to exploit match-ups and get other big defenders out of the paint because they have to guard me out on the perimeter. It’s been an easy change and I feel very comfortable with this new style of play.”
Horford might be comfortable playing further away from the bucket, that doesn’t mean the team will get away from using him in the paint with his back to the basket. This was on full display against Toronto this weekend when his 13 field goals came on an assortment of cuts to the rim, jumpers and post-ups .
This isn’t anything new because this season Horford has mixed things up with 24% of his touches have come in post up situations, 15% through pick and roll situations, 14% through spot-ups, 13% through cuts and 11% via isolation.
You can chalk this variety to being part of how Drew wants to keep opposing defenses honest.
“I’ll still post him against certain guys, but for the most part I really believe the strength of his game is his ability to step out and make shots,” Drew told HOOPSADDICT.com. ”We are going to keep mixing it up for him. I don’t want him to be a predictable player where he is always out on the perimeter or he’s always in the post – we’re going to keep mixing it up to keep the opposing defense offbalance and allow him to do what he does best.”