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Vegas Win Total Projection: 46.5 (VegasInsider.com)
One of the NBA's biggest surprises last season, the Atlanta Hawks added and lost quite a bit this offseason. The loss of DeMarre Carroll, when Sefolosha was already a question mark is going to hurt. But they did add Tiago Splitter, one of the most underrated big men in the league. Jeff Teague and Schroeder should take steps forward and bring more to the table, and Kyle Korver is coming back to full health as well. Do I think they'll be the best team in the eastern conference? No. But they certainly shouldn't fall off as much as many expect. Mike Budenholzer is a great coach who's developed the Gregg Poppovich mentality of “next man up", and while the loss of Carroll is big, I expect their new players to fill voids and play close to expectation. I think they can be a 50-win team, if Sefolosha is around and they play the same team-oriented ball.
Top Fantasy Options
I think in order to have a good season, the Hawks need to rely on Jeff Teague even more than previous seasons.A player who's still young and developing, but really took a huge leap forward last season. I expect him to be close to a 20 point, 8-9 assist man for this Atlanta team. The system Budenholzer runs, requires a play-making point guard like Teague to create offensively and open up space in the lane for others. There is no doubt he's got the talent, but when he's playing against a defensively sound point guard, he struggles at times, so we need to see more from him in big games and match-ups. Al Horford, Paul Millsap are also in contention for top fantasy options, but I just feel as though the point guard position is crucial for a team like the Hawks, making the position player more valuable.
Mike Scott came out of nowhere last season and played really well in a reduced role for the Hawks. I don't even know if the minutes he got last season will be there based on front-court depth and the recovery of Korver, Sefelosha. For that reason, I don't even see Scott getting a look in fantasy unless injuries or something unforeseen happens.
Tiago Splitter is an excellent big in the NBA. I previously said he was one of the most underrated and I truly believe Budenholzer will use him in lots of situations. Although they have Horford, he'll get minutes and alleviate pressure on the front-court starters like Millsap and Horford. Splitter has a way of drawing fouls, he shoots a good free-throw percentage, and traditionally his field-goal percentage is also very good. He's not going to get you 20 and 10, but he'll give you a cheap option that can produce a lot on a per-minute basis. In 19.8 minutes, Splitter averages almost 9 points, 6 rebounds, and 2 assists. If you turn that number into 40 minutes, your looking at a 18 point, 12 rebound, 4 assist center. That's plenty of production in a small period of time.
The Hawks will probably take a 5-15 game slip, based on the loss of Carroll and if/when Sefelosha comes back. The front-court has added depth and the team's not going to lose too much with a coach like Mike Budenholzer. I see their offensive statistics to stay about the same, while their defensive statistics like points allowed (5th in the league last season), to go down. The problem they face is when they play the better teams in the league with a formidable small-forward. Because of the loss of Carroll, they've lost a good defensive presence in that position with no sure-fire back-up until Sefelosha comes back. Overall, I expect to see about 45-50 wins this season, as they still have good depth in the front-court, a top-10 coach, and quality rotation.
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