Tuesday, November 19, 2013
3-on-3: Atlanta Hawks vs. Miami Heat
The surprising Atlanta Hawks are flying to Miami to take on the Heat, who are riding a three-game winning streak.
1. Can LeBron sustain his 60-plus shooting percentage?
Israel Gutierrez: As long as the players around LeBron James allow him to be this selective for most of the season, yes. With Dwyane Wade relatively healthy, Michael Beasley contributing at an efficient level, and the Heat shooters taking and making good shots, LeBron doesn't have to force much at all. And it's clear he wants to do better than last year's 56.5 percent. Getting to 60 is quite a leap, but it's also a heckuva milestone achievement for a "perimeter" player.
Tom Haberstroh: Can he? Yes. Is it likely? No. That would represent the biggest year-to-year jump of his career. Yes, LeBron has raised his field goal percentage in each of his past seven seasons, but that becomes tougher the higher you go. But it's possible.
Brian Windhorst: Probably not. We've never seen a wing-based player or a scorer like LeBron shoot 60 percent in a season in the modern era. The closest was Bernard King, who shot 59 percent in 1980-81. I was 3 years old at the time so I have no idea how he did it. That said, LeBron did shoot 57 percent last season, so it's not a huge stretch. Erik Spoelstra always says never to put a ceiling on him.
2. Is Rashard Lewis a fixture in the Heat rotation now?
Gutierrez: He should be, at least until he shows signs of regression. He's shooting 50 percent from the floor (nearly 48 percent on 3s), he's not a liability defensively, and he's moving the ball quickly when his shot isn't available. He's not a major factor on the boards, and if that comes back to hurt the Heat, maybe his minutes will slowly diminish.
Haberstroh: Sure, but don't count on his being part of it come playoff time. The Heat are just too deep, and at this rate, it's only a matter of time before Michael Beasley takes Lewis' minutes. Most imagined that James Jones would be the biggest beneficiary of Mike Miller's departure, but Jones has played four more minutes this season than I have.
Windhorst: The Heat have eight players they steadily play when healthy, and Lewis is not one of them. The ninth is constantly changing, and sometimes there isn't a 10th. Spoelstra has been going to Lewis in that role rather often, but some of that is because of the health of a few of the top eight. Lewis has played well and probably will continue to get chances when there are injuries, or as that ninth or 10th guy when warranted.
3. Are the Hawks with Millsap and Horford a top-three East frontcourt?
Gutierrez: The Pacers' frontcourt is the class of the East. After that, a handful of teams have a good case. When it comes to matching up with Miami, the Hawks' frontcourt is troublesome. But, when healthy, the Knicks' frontcourt is a matchup problem, and when the Bulls' Joakim Noah and Luol Deng are right, they're equally, if not more, of a problem. If DeMarre Carroll were more productive, it would put the Hawks up there. But right now, no.
Haberstroh: Yes, if we're talking frontcourt tandems, but I'm an unabashed Paul Millsap-Al Horford fanatic. Assuming we're not counting LeBron as a power forward, I'll probably take the Pacers and the Pistons to round out the top-three. I just can't get on board with Kevin Garnett yet for Brooklyn to be included.
Windhorst: According to the PER standings, they are the top frontcourt in the East at the moment. Of course, in current PER, Michael Beasley is seventh overall. Horford and Millsap are two of the more underrated bigs in the league, so their tandem is naturally going to be underrated. Where they rank will fluctuate depending on health elsewhere, but they're formidable.