Will the Heat and the Nets take the top two spots in the East?
In another installment of the Heat Index's 3-on-3 series, our writers give their takes on the storylines before the Heat host the Nets on Saturday and aim to improve to 12-3.
1. Fact or Fiction: This is a matchup of the top two seeds in the East.
Tom Haberstroh: Fiction. As impressed as I am with how the Nets have played this season, I'm not ready to sign off on a No. 2 seed for them quite yet. Not with Brook Lopez already dealing with foot problems. Boston is only 2.5 games behind the Nets and Knicks, which is practically nothing this early in the season. Don't count out Atlanta, either.
Michael Wallace: Fiction. The standings right now might reflect that to be the case, but once Boston hits its stride, I think the Celtics will be the team occupying that spot directly behind the Heat in the East.
Brian Windhorst: Fiction. Not ready to give that to the Nets yet. They still have to prove consistency. Also, I expect both the Knicks and Celtics to improve as players get healthy and the season goes on. But Mikhail Prokhorov has said he expects conference finals, and he might be on to something.
2. Fact or Fiction: The Heat should have signed Andray Blatche on a flier.
Haberstroh: Fact. I keep going back and forth on this one. Blatche might not have been a good fit with the locker room in Miami, but you can overlook that when he's averaging 18.9 points and 11.4 rebounds every 36 minutes. His scoring potential is well-documented, but his rebounding numbers would easily lead the Heat, and it's not like Erik Spoelstra has shown any interest in Dexter Pittman and Josh Harrellson. This isn't an Eddy Curry situation; Blatche is much further along physically.
Wallace: Fiction. The phrase "should have" seems to be a bit too strong. Miami was coming off a title with a certain roster personality. Pat Riley certainly didn't need to get desperate with anyone. Blatche would be a perfect backup for Chris Bosh from a playing-style standpoint. But just as vital to the Heat is the chemistry in the locker room.
Windhorst: Fact. I know Blatche's makeup doesn't fit in with the Heat's preferred profile. But he was ready to sign for the minimum and is way more talented than the reserve big men the Heat had on the roster or in training camp. The Heat also like cheap reclamation projects, and Blatche fit that for sure.
3. Fact or Fiction: Joe Johnson has had a more disappointing start than Dwyane Wade.
Haberstroh: Fact. Wade has had a rough start to the season by his standards, but that's what happens after knee surgery and foot problems. Johnson, though? That's a bigger mystery. Friday night was just the third time this season he's scored more than 20 points. If there are no injury concerns, he's declining way earlier than he should. Money is of no concern to Prokhorov, but there's $89 million left on Johnson's deal. That's a whole lot of cap space for a guy who trails Wesley Matthews in the scoring column.
Wallace: Fiction. For some reason, Johnson has always avoided the mega scrutiny endured by others who have underperformed from that 2010 summer free-agency crop. But Wade would be the first to tell you he's not pleased with the way his season has started. He's still dealing with nagging knee and foot recovery issues, and he's been absolutely horrible at finishing at the rim. His numbers will improve as he rounds into condition. On the other hand, no one know what to expect from Johnson -- even when healthy.
Windhorst: Fact. Wade is coming off knee surgery, and the Heat don't need high scoring from him anymore. Johnson has one of the biggest contracts in the league, and the Nets are paying for a leading scorer. He is averaging the fewest points since the 2002-03 season and so far is shooting a career-low 41 percent.