AOL.com's Preseason NBA Power Rankings: 9. Atlanta Hawks
Craving NBA basketball? It's almost time. There's now less than two weeks until the regular season tips off on Oct. 27, and as the offseason dwindles down, we're in the home stretch of our preseason team previews and power rankings.
Tuesday, the pegged the Miami Heat at No. 10. You can find all previous preview entries here. At No. 9, we have one of last season's biggest surprises -- that aren't flying under anyone's radar anymore.
The Atlanta Hawks first made waves on a national stage during the 2014 postseason, as the 38-44 eighth seed taking on the No. 1 seed Indiana Pacers -- and taking them to a Game 7 in the first round. That series put Mike Budenholzer's three-pointer laden offense on full display, and despite marginal talent throughout the lineup, put the Hawks on the map as a team that legitimate contenders wanted to avoid.
What followed that series against the Pacers was a season-long assault on the Eastern Conference. That three-point dominance continued, ranking seventh in the league in attempts and second in percentage. In a weak East, Budenholzer's offense reigned supreme all season. The Hawks ranked sixth in the league in offense, but even more impressively, sixth in defense.
The team is returning most of its 2014-15 squad, but with the glaring omission of DeMarre Carroll -- last year's breakout, do-it-all forward that epitomized Atlanta's attack. His lock-down defending on the wings, hard-nosed fight and three-point shooting will be missed, and the team still isn't quite sure how it'll replace him in the lineup. But the good news: The rest of the starters are back and have every reason to continue their success.
Jeff Teague, coming off his first All-Star appearance after averaging 16 points and seven assists, will again run the show. Paul Millsap has re-signed long-term, and his package of inside scoring and three-point shooting fits perfectly within the Hawks' system. Al Horford is one of the more gifted big men in the league, and Kyle Korver could still be the league's best shooter.
Thabo Sefolosha will likely step into Carroll's role, starting on a wing, if he's fully healthy. The team has added Tiago Splitter and Tim Hardaway Jr. to the reserve unit, joining Dennis Schroder. The East will likely be a few steps ahead of what it was last year as a group, but coming off a 60-win season, Atlanta should be up to the challenge.
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