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Zach Lowe on the Atlanta Hawks: They can be "qualitatively about the same" in 2015-2016

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One of the best writers in the business suggested that the Hawks could look very similar in terms of overall performance in 2015-2016.

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Because the Atlanta Hawks overachieved in the standings (60-22) when compared with their net rating (+5.6 points per 100 possessions), many have opined that fans of Mike Budenholzer's team are in for a rude awakening in 2015-2016. However, Zach Lowe of Grantland holds the opposite view, and he put forth an optimistic prediction that Atlanta will post a net rating this season that will be strikingly similar to last season's mark:

The Hawks’ win total is going to plummet from the 60 they put up last season, and the naysayers will crow about how it was all a fluke. But a team can win fewer games and still be qualitatively about the same, and I’m betting on the Hawks to do that — provided they stay healthy.

Tiago Splitter fills a need on defense, and his mad rolls to the rim should mesh with Al Horford and Paul Millsap. Dennis Schroder and Mike Muscala are a year older, and more Muscala gives Mike Budenholzer flexibility to bench the feast-or-famine Mike Scott. They’ll miss Carroll, but Atlanta’s player development staff is as good as it gets. They’ll get something out of Thabo Sefolosha, Tim Hardaway Jr., and Kent Bazemore.

The loss of DeMarre Carroll will certainly be felt, and no one believes otherwise. Still, there is an argument to be made that the rest of the roster is markedly better with the addition of Tiago Splitter and development from young players like Dennis Schröder, Bazemore and Mike Muscala, and that should help to offset the departure of the "Junkyard Dog".

Predicting a repeat of 60 wins would be aggressive even if Carroll had returned, and every expert, however positive they are about the Hawks, realizes that. With that on the table, Atlanta has a very strong core of players to go along with a fantastic coaching and player development staff, and when a writer as plugged in as Zach Lowe sees reasons for optimism, it is usually a good sign.