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Get to know the 2015-16 Atlanta Hawks

If this is the Eastern Conference's best hope to unseat the Cavs, then there may be no point in even having the Eastern Conference. Part 1 of a 30-part series, profiling every team in the NBA.

Jason Getz-USA TODAY Sports

Atlanta Hawks

Who's New: C Tiago Splitter (trade), G Tim Hardaway Jr. (trade), G Jason Richardson (free agent), G Justin Holiday (free agent), C Walter  Tavares (draft rights)

Who's Gone: F DeMarre Carroll (free agent), C Pero Antic (free agent), F Elton Brand (retired), F Austin Daye (waived)

Off-season Grade: C-. I get why Carroll's gone but they could've done a better job of replacing him.

2015-16 Slogan: "We're like the Spurs, but without the talent or charisma."

What Else Is New?: Uniforms! I don't love them, but at least they've got the right logo again and the right franchise colors, and they've dumped the blue and white scheme they had the past few years. Still prefer these, though. Also, Grant Hill owns them now or something.

Your Likely Starting Lineup:

C Al Horford

PF Paul MIllsap

SF Kyle Korver

SG Tim Hardaway Jr.

PG Jeff Teague

I'm not enough of a cap nerd to know all the ins and outs, but the Hawks didn't have full Bird rights for both Millsap and Carroll because both guys were only on the team for two seasons. As a consequence, they only had the cap room to re-sign one.

The question, then, is whether Hardaway can sufficiently replace Carroll. And the answer is no, he cannot. Hardaway showed potential early on during his rookie year but faded badly that season and continued to tumble even more last season, shooting an abysmal 39 percent and providing next to nothing as a playmaker and on the boards. But don't worry, he was horrendous defensively too. Former GM Danny Ferry stepped down a couple of days before the draft and the Hawks made a curious deal on draft day, flipping the rights to 15th pick Kelly Oubre from Kansas in a three-team deal that sent Jerian Grant to the Knicks and Hardaway Jr. to Atlanta. I'd have preferred Grant.

Horford and Millsap are the best 4-5 combo in the East and the fact that they can both shoot from outside makes the offense practically unstoppable when it's in rhythm. Korver had a career year and made nearly half of his three-point shots, but you have to wonder if he can do that again at 34, and whether he'll have more responsibility defensively without Carroll there to take on the top perimeter threat. But the guy who'll make them or break them is Teague. He's an inconsistent shooter and not quite quick enough to get to the rim consistently. He looks good when everyone is clicking and opponents can't key on him, but when teams go under screens and make him beat them, he hasn't shown that he can do it.

Your Bench:

C Tiago Splitter

G Dennis Schroder

G Thabo Sefolosha

F Mike Muscala

F Mike Scott

G Kent Bazemore

G Jason Richardson

G Shelvin Mack

Acquiring Splitter for nothing as part of a Spurs salary dump was quite a coup for the Hawks. He's not quite good enough to start for a championship-caliber club but he's the perfect third big and will enable Horford to play more as a four, which he wants. The Brazilian is an excellent passer and a superb roller, and his familiarity with Mike Budenholzer should help smooth his transition, and he's already ingratiating himself within the community!

Schroder was one of the best backup points in the league for most of the season and a fringe 6th Man of the Year candidate, but he hit a wall late and was a gasoline fire in the playoffs. We'll have to see if he lives up to that "German Rondo" nickname, but considering how the career of the American version is going, maybe it's not a compliment to begin with.

Now that Carroll is gone, the conventional wisdom has the Hawks playing Sefolosha more because of his defensive liability. Obviously the circumstances that kept Sefolosha out of the playoffs last season were terrible and disgusting, but if there was ever an indictment on the talent gap between the Eastern and Western Conferences, it was the panic that hit Hawks fans when Sefolosha broke his leg. We're talking about a guy whom Scooter Brooks benched in 2014 in favor of a 59-year old Derek Fisher and a year later his injury was a deathblow to their chances. Hmm.

Mike Scott is another fellow who contributed early on but was a disaster in the money games, eventually finding himself shut out of the rotation. Who knows if he'll even have a career anymore, considering his legal situation?

Muscala was someone who came on late, leapfrogging both Antic and Scott and he should contribute as a fourth big and floor spacer. Richardson, shockingly, is only 34 and he showed last year in Philadelphia that he wasn't completely finished. He might be able to chip in a few buckets off the bench if Hardaway proves unplayable. Bazemore provides energy and spark, the closest thing they've got to Patty Mills, but he has to refine his shot to really make a difference.

Your Coach: Mike Budenholzer

The Hawks took a lot of abuse from critics for how poorly they played in the playoffs, especially against the Cavs, but that came from talking heads who didn't watch them all season long and assumed they were a fluke to begin with. Millsap was 50 percent at best, Horford was dinged up and Carroll was lost in Game 1 against Cleveland. The popular criticism of the Hawks was that they were playing at their absolute peak level for the first 50 games and couldn't find another gear when they had to, when other teams started taking them seriously and when superstars dominate the playoffs. We heard similar things leveled at the Spurs from 2011-2014, until they finally broke through. There was also the school of thought that Budenholzer just doesn't have enough tactical clubs in his bag and he was "exposed" in the playoffs against opponents who had time to scheme against him.

Bud will soon have the chance to prove himself all over again. If he's truly Pop's protege, he'll have the Hawks humming even better this season after bringing almost all of the rotation pieces back and cultivating another year of "corporate knowledge." We'll see how he fills in the hole Carroll left and how much he can develop Hardaway. Atlanta's off-season moves didn't thrill me by any means, but as the GM, they were moves Bud wanted to make. He's the chef here, so he must know something we don't.

Bottom Line: A 55-27 record, a top-four seed if everyone stays healthy, but ultimately their skilled front line can't hang on the boards with Cleveland and they've got nobody who can remotely simmer down the fire breathing robo-dragon over there. My hunch is Budenholzer would've preferred for Pop to give him Kawhi Leonard instead.

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