Los Angeles Clippers (19-9) at Atlanta Hawks (20-7)
4:30 p.m. PST
December 23, 2014
FOX Prime Ticket
Video of the Day
Vote the Hawks for the All-Star Game.
1. Would Josh Smith be a good fit on the Clippers?
Bo Churney, HawksHoop, (@bochurney): The Clippers depth at the big positions is pretty shallow, meaning there would be minutes available if the Clippers were to sign Smith. I still think Smith can be productive and I believe that the Clippers—with Rivers and Woodson—have the coaching staff to make him into a useful player. As long as the Clippers are not putting Smith out on the perimeter, it’s a gamble worth taking.
Robby Kalland, Hardwood Paroxysm, (@RKalland): If there’s anyone that knows how to put Josh Smith in the best spots, it’s Mike Woodson. They need depth in the frontcourt, and I am still a believer that Josh, when put at the four and not stationed on the perimeter, can be a good, productive player. I think the Clippers and Mavs are the two best fits for him, and then Washington.
Ben Mesirow: Absolutely, provided he’s willing to come off the bench. Smith is talented, and there’s plenty of room for his skill set in the second unit—lineups with Jamal, J-Smoove, and Spencer Hawes would be funky, creative, and potent. A starting lineup with Smith at the 3, on the other hand, would be distinctly less frightening for opponents.
2. What is the Hawks’ ceiling?
Churney: The East is pretty much five teams deep: Atlanta, Toronto, Washington, Cleveland, and Chicago. I think it is possible that any of these five teams wins the Eastern Conference. Yes, even the Hawks. When healthy, the Hawks have great depth and a well balanced lineup that can score from anywhere. They really are a dangerous team.
Kalland: This team is a contender to win the Eastern Conference. When healthy, they have a dynamic offense and have seemingly figured things out on the defensive end the last dozen games or so. They’re competitive most every night, and if they got hot shooting from deep for a week in the ECF, they could win the East. They’re not the favorites, but certainly have a chance in the conference.
Mesirow: The Eastern Conference Finals. They’ve been playing great basketball lately, especially at home, and they’re a fun and inspirational story, but the Eastern Conference is a top-to-bottom talent-rich meat grinder gauntlet of high-octane slugfest death, and I… Just kidding. Most of the East is a mess. But I do think it’s hard to imagine the Haws beating two of the Raptors, Cavs, and Bulls triumvirate in consecutive seven game series.
3. Aside from a healthy Al Horford, what’s been the Hawks’ greatest reason for improvement?
Churney: The bench. Dennis Schröder has emerged as a proper scoring threat and creates a dynamic look for Atlanta’s second unit. Kent Bazemore and Thabo Sefolosha have given the Hawks proper wing depth, which is a far cry from last season where the Hawks sometimes had Shelvin Mack or Lou Williams playing the 3. Pero Antic, who started often for Horford last season, is back to a lesser role where he belongs. All of that and I haven’t even gotten to Mike Scott and Elton Brand yet…
Kalland: Depth across the floor. Schröder has turned himself into a really solid point guard in the league and is a more than capable backup to Jeff Teague. Bazemore’s given them nice minutes on the wing and Sefolosha—for all his offensive woes—has been great for the second unit’s defense behind DeMarre Carroll. The frontcourt is deep, with Pero Antic, Mike Scott, Elton Brand and Mike Muscala offering up good production behind the stars in Horford and Paul Millsap. This year, depth has allowed the Hawks to maintain leads—and even build them on occasion—when the starters take a seat.
Mesirow: Have you seen Kyle Korver’s shooting percentages? The bench has been excellent, Schroeder looks like a quality player, and (buzzword alert!) the continuity of a second year with a similar core in the same system is lovely, but my word, when someone’s shooting 52-54-95, it makes everything look a whole lot prettier.