NBA Pre-season win predictions: Eastern Conference, Southeast Division

6 of 6

Sep 28, 2015; Atlanta, GA, USA; Atlanta Hawks guard Jeff Teague (0) and guard Kyle Korver (26) reacts during media day at Philips Arena. Mandatory Credit: Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

Atlanta Hawks

Last season: 60 – 22

This season: 54 – 28

No one foresaw the Hawks’ ascension to elite status when last season opened, and there are still doubters. Despite the loss of DeMarre Carroll, they still look mighty tough to me. After starting 5-5, they went 35-3. While a streak like that won’t happen again, it doesn’t have to.

Kyle Korver has no peers shooting from beyond the arc. If you want to understand “floor spacing”, watch a Hawks game. Korver doesn’t shoot that many long balls, as defenders are all over him. But his presence creates room for the talented point guard Jeff Teague to slash to the hoop, or dish to superb low-post gunner Al Horford.

Paul Millsap has never failed to add elements to his game. When he arrived in the NBA, he was known strictly for his rebounding savvy. Now he can shoot the three, or hit a mid-range jumper. If Anthony Bennett can become half the player Millsap is, Raptors fans will be happy.

Their rotation players, led by speedy Dennis Schroder and underrated forward Tiago Splitter, are at least as good as anyone else’s. Every Hawk understands the importance of ball movement.

Mike Budenholzer is the reigning Coach of the Year, a title he richly deserved. If this team doesn’t repeat its Division-winning performance, I’ll be one surprised commentator.

Next: Forecast - Western Conference, Pacific Division

More from Raptors Rapture