Center Gustavo Ayon had surgery today on his right shoulder and he’ll miss the rest of the season, the Hawks announced. The news is a blow to a team that’s perilously thin on the front line as it fights to hold on to the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. The Hawks are already without Al Horford for the rest of the season, and they’re missing Paul Millsap and Pero Antic, who are out with short-term injuries.
Atlanta recently signed bought center Mike Muscala out of his Spanish league contract and signed the 2013 second-round pick Thursday to shore up the team’s inside presence. The team has lost 10 out of 11 games to fall from third place to eighth in the East. The Hawks hold a lead of three and a half games on the Pistons for the final playoff spot, and they’ve been using DeMarre Carroll as a small-ball power forward in the starting lineup, with Elton Brand at center.
The Hawks still have a $5.15MM trade exception for Horford they could use to add a player between now and March 10th. It seems unlikely they’ll use the exception unless an intriguing big man comes available on the buyout market, since most free agents at this point would command no more than the minimum salary.
Ayon has been out since February 18th, when he injured the shoulder against the Pacers. He’s making $1.5MM this season in the final year of a three-year contract, and he’ll be a restricted free agent this summer if the Hawks make a qualifying offer worth $1.875MM.