As the slumping Hawks head into Wednesday night's showdown against the Wizards, we're all taken back to a happier time: A time when Al Horford was hitting buzzer beaters off pretty Pero Antic passes; a time when Atlanta comfortably sat with the East's third best record.
As we've seen of late though, the times aren't so rosy anymore. Injuries have decimated the roster and the Hawks continue to drop further below .500. Can they get back on track against one of the most intriguing Eastern Conference teams this season?
Question (Daniel Christian): John Wall and Bradley Beal are widely recognized as one of the best young backcourts in the league. Wall is already an All-Star and one of the league's premier guards. What does Beal have to work on to take that next step?
Answer (Albert Lee): I think Beal needs to do two things to take his next step toward becoming an All-Star. First, I'd like to see him become a player who can consistently create plays for others which will take some of the pressure off of John Wall and Nene. He is making some good strides in this area, as he is averaging 3.4 assists a a game this season, and in his last 15 games, Beal is averaging 4.5 assists while only committing two turnovers a game. That is promising indeed.
Second, Beal needs to be more assertive with driving to the basket which could give him some more free throw opportunities. Currently, he is only averaging 2.1 free throws a game and as the second leading scorer on the team at 16.9 ppg, I think he should be averaging more than just two free throws a game, since he is averaging over 81% at the line.
Q: Otto Porter exploded at Georgetown last year, but thanks to some unfortunate injuries, we haven't seen him much in the NBA. Is Porter even NBA ready when healthy? Where does he fit in with this team?
A: I don't see Porter being NBA ready right now considering what the Wizards are trying to do this season which is to make the Playoffs, and given where the Eastern Conference is as a whole, try to make a push for a Top-4 seed. Part of the reason why Porter doesn't appear to be ready right now is because of what the Wizards are trying to do. And then the Wizards also have other small forwards on the team who are producing at a more consistent level on a nightly basis, namely Trevor Ariza and Martell Webster. Personally, I feel that Porter should go to the Iowa Energy on a D-League assignment to help build up his confidence and so he can play some meaningful minutes in a basketball game this season and even wrote that last December. However, part of the reason why Porter may not be in the D-League is because the Wizards, like the Hawks, do not own their own teams, which also may mean that the D-League teams are less likely to run the Wizards' offensive and defensive sets.
I feel that if he does pan out, Porter could be a multi positional defender on the wing (DraftExpress has his wingspan at over 7 feet), and he also may be able to be a point forward for the Wizards, given what he did for the Hoyas last offseason. But he's still a ways from getting to that point, if he ever does.
Q: I believed that Martell Webster deserved his semi-hefty four-year contract but haven't tracked his production since he signed. Some casually refer to it as one of the more head-scratching contracts if only because it's seemingly unmovable. How overpaid is Webster and is he part of this team's long term plan as a key rotational piece?
A: I agree with you that Webster deserved his four-year contract which was worth the full mid-level exception. He provides a strong three point shooting presence and is also among the NBA's top players in catch and shoot points and three point field goals made per game, along with Trevor Ariza and Bradley Beal. On one hand I do feel that he may be overpaid because he is not providing much more to the Wizards on the offensive end besides three point shooting and isn't as good of a defender as Ariza, but there were also a number of other wing players who are known for their shooting and received nice salaries when signing their deals last offseason.
Q: There's no Al Horford to break the Wizards' hearts in this one. What's the key for the Wizards to lock up a win against the injury-riddled Hawks this time around? Also, give us a final score prediction.
A: For the Wizards, they're going to need to play consistent defense for 48 minutes to beat the Hawks in particular from three. Kyle Korver is obviously the number one threat from deep and he needs to be kept in check, but also Cartier Martin (a former Wizards player) is capable of getting hot from behind the line when given minutes. Lou Williams also has been a player who has been able to just score bunches of points on the Wizards as well. And Paul Millsap, who has been huge for ATL this season also has to be kept in check from having a big day scoring. He is having a great year shooting from the three point line as well.
The Wizards are also among the league leaders in forcing turnovers which often lead to fast break points. The Hawks are in the Top 10 in committing turnovers. If the Wizards can force the Hawks to commit closer to 20 turnovers in the game while not going over that mark themselves and playing a crisp offense for the entire game, those should be the ingredients they need in order to get a W.
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