Before we begin, you encourage you to check out our other End of the Hawks Decade articles:
A Decade of Hawks Aughts (and Aught-Nots),
Top Hawks by Statistical Category
THHB's Top 10 (and more) Hawks of the Decade, #10, #9, #8, #7, #6
Our Number Five Hawk of the Decade is:
For those Bird Watchers who witnessed Al mesh seamlessly into the high talent fabric that was the 2010 All-Star Game, you had to feel pride.
There was your guy, your player hitting jump shots, running the floor, finishing strong, rebounding, provide (what?!) defense at an AS game. Al proved he belonged on a stage where few Hawks have proved worthy.
This season, Horford became the first drafted Hawk to represent the good guys in the All-Star game since Kevin Willis in 1992.
Still, as the 2007 NBA Draft approached, and as Greg Oden and Kevin Durant were already penned in at the top 2 positions, what the people wanted to do with #3 pick was hotly contested as seen here, here, and here among many channels of opinion.
In the Hawks Blog-o-rama, ESPN's Hoopinion thought very highly of Al in his two opportunities to evaluate their options. We had our sights set on Al from the get-go and are thrilled things have worked out better than if the team had cast their lots with Jianlian or Conley as were discussed in those circles.
Right from the beginning, Horford was a team favorite due to his hustle, attitude, and plus level abilities. He was drafted to fill the need for a post playing big on both ends, and to date he has not disappointed statistically--and has delivered when called upon. His immediate acumen in the front court allowed the Hawks to divest themselves of the previous fellow drafted to fulfill such desperate needs, Shelden Williams, in the trade that brought the #6 Hawk of the decade into the fold.
Horford ranked second in the decade in Defensive Rebounding Rate (24.2, second to Mutombo), and in Total Rebounding Rate (16.8) while also being the only Hawks to rate in the Top 5 in both Offensive and Defensive Rating (114/105).
There has been much discussion around how historically little Horford is used offensively, but more recently Coach Woodson has seen fit to include Horford more. Still, as Hardwood Paroxysm showed in their PER/Usage report, and as Matt Moore himself thought enough of to invoke all caps, AL HORFORD NEEDS MORE TOUCHES. End quote.
Horford has acquitted himself nicely in being a power forward in a center universe, something he admitted to us he wasn't sure he was able to do and still be the player he thought he could be. But he has and he continues to grow, meaning that this may not be the only decade that Horford resides in the Hawks Top Ten.
His growth has helped the Hawks rise from the depths of the lottery to deeper and deeper into the playoffs. His professional approach and attitude has come to define him and are likely the reasons, along with his production and talent, that the coaches voted him in as a reserve in this year's all star game.
Will he have a Derek Harper like consistency to his statistical improvement? We hope so, and look forward to seeing Horford in a Hawks uniform for a long time.
After all, he is our Number Five Hawk of the Decade.