Los Angeles Clippers (23-11) vs. Atlanta Hawks (25-8)
7:30 p.m. PST
January 5, 2015
FOX Prime Ticket
Video of the Day
Al Horford’s little brother: into cheerleaders.
1. The Hawks have the best record in the Eastern Conference, but are they the best team?
Robby Kalland, Hardwood Paroxysm, (@RKalland): As of now, it’s hard to say they aren’t. They’ve got a great record against the top teams in the East (and West) and are playing complete basketball on both ends of the floor. We’ll see if they can keep it up come April and May, but for now I have to say they’re the East’s best team.
Patrick James, (@patrickmjames): They’ve certainly played like the best team so far. Unlike Toronto or Chicago, there’s no need to say “when healthy” every time you offer an assessment of Atlanta. And given how positively Spursian the Hawks look, “best” feels appropriate.
Fred Katz, (@FredKatz): Atlanta has been tremendous, but a fully loaded Bulls team is particularly scary, especially considering what they can do on offense now with the additions of Derrick Rose, Pau Gasol and Nikola Mirotic alongside the improved Jimmy Butler.
2. If the season ended today, would Mike Budenholzer be the deserving Coach of the Year?
Kalland: I think so. He’s done a masterful coaching job to this point from managing minutes to getting the most out of guys one through 10 on the roster. One of the hardest parts of coaching is getting guys to buy into your system—ask David Blatt—and no one has done a better job of that than Bud, and it’s paying off for the Hawks. He maximizes the talent of his best players—Teague, Horford, Millsap, and Korver—and gives guys that are role players the confidence to play and contribute at a high level—guys like Carroll, Schröder, Scott, and Sefolosha.
James: See previous answer—if your team is playing like the Spurs, your coach is doing something right. So Budenholzer’s got a great shot. But can you tell me he’s more deserving than Steve Kerr, who has a built-in “look how much better I am than my predecessor” narrative?
Katz: Yes. Steve Kerr is doing a tremendous job in Golden State, but he’s got two-way talent after two-way talent on that team. Now, the Hawks are far from untalented, but with all its injuries last season, Atlanta squeezed out just 38 wins. If the Hawks churn out a 60-win season or close to it, maybe the award should go to the guy who has instilled one of the prettiest and most free-flowing offenses in basketball. But all that said, it’s hard to argue against Kerr in this situation. You can only really fight for Bud.
3. Should Jordan Farmar start losing minutes in favor of other guards on the Clippers bench?
Kalland: I just don’t know who else should get those minutes. Farmar’s played poorly, but he’s about all the Clippers have behind Paul to run point. Jamal Crawford can take ball-handling duties some, but other than J-Craw who else is there? Jared Cunningham isn’t any better than Farmar—he’s more athletic but is equally inefficient and is prone to mistakes and bad defense—and I don’t know enough to say C.J. Wilcox is ready to take on a bigger role (plus he isn’t a point). I think this is a prime example of the biggest problems with the Clippers. They have as good a starting five as anyone in the league, but the depth at point guard and in the frontcourt is just so poor it’s hard for them to balance minutes.
James: You could ask this question about almost any Clippers bench player not named Jamal Crawford. I think we’ll see a lot of lineup tweaks throughout the long NBA winter (followed by dramatic rotation shortening come spring) as Doc searches for a bench strategy that works.
Katz: It stands to reason. There’s no reason to give Jared Cunningham important minutes, but maybe increase a couple minutes from Crawford and Redick each night. Farmar has struggled creating off the dribble and playing off the ball next to Paul. If the Clipper stay away from him more, they could play the guys who thrive in those roles.