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NBA 2017-18 Eastern Conference Outlook: How bad will the Atlanta Hawks be?

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NBA 2017-18 Eastern Conference Outlook: How bad will the Atlanta Hawks be?

CSN is looking around the league as we prepare for the 2017-18 NBA season. Today, we break down the Atlanta Hawks' outlook...

2016-17 record: 43-39, 5th in East
Coach: Mike Budenholzer
Key additions: PF John Collins, C Miles Plumlee, SG Marco Belinelli, C Dewayne Dedmon
Key losses: PF Paul Millsap, C Dwight Howard, SG Tim Hardaway, Jr.
Projected lineup: PG Dennis Schroder, SG Marco Belinelli, SF Kent Bazemore, PF Ersan Ilyasova, C Dewayne Dedmon

Biggest questions:

1. How bad will they be?

At 10 years, the Atlanta Hawks have the second-longest streak of making the playoffs behind only the San Antonio Spurs, but that is about to be put to the test. After losing in six games to the Wizards in the first round of the playoffs, the Hawks underwent a significant roster overhaul that saw a lot more talent leave than they brought in. Gone are Millsap, Howard and Hardaway, three of the Hawks' most important players last season. In those three guys, they lost a little bit of everything, especially with Millsap who is among the most consistent and versatile players in the NBA.

As a result, the Hawks are being predicted by many to take a major step back. The sportsbook Bovada's odds for NBA win totals in 2017-18 has them second-worst among all teams, with an over/under of just 25 1/2 wins. Only the Bulls are lower and that's worse than perennial doormats like the Nets and Kings. If they surprise people and continue that playoff streak, then Budenholzer will probably get the coach of the year award.

[RELATED: BROOKS KNOWS RE-SIGNING STARS ISN'T EASY]

2. Can Prince and Collins give them hope?

All of that is not to say the Hawks don't have talent, but they are resting their hopes on some very young players. Taurean Prince is entering his second season after being picked 12th overall last summer. He's an intriguing athlete at 6-foot-8 who can do a little bit of everything. He just needs to find his niche and be consistent at it. Collins was their first round pick in this year's draft. The 19th overall pick, Collins is a 6-foot-10 forward from Wake Forest. Last year he averaged 19.2 points and 9.8 rebounds for the Demon Deacons. If either of those blue chip prospects can show promise, then the Hawks' outlook will look a lot less bleak.

3. Will Schoder take another step?

With Millsap and Howard gone, the Hawks' two highest-paid players are Bazemore and Schroder. We pretty much know what Bazemore is. At 28, he has settled in to being a defensive specialist with some decent value on the offensive end. For Schroder, who turns 24 this month, there are plenty of unknowns.

The Hawks are banking on Schroder to continue his development. So far through four seasons, he has gotten noticeably better each year. If he takes another step beyond what he put up this last season (17.9 ppg, 6.3 apg, 45.1 FG%), he could be an All-Star. The point guard position is deep in today's NBA, but Schroder is on the cusp of becoming one of the better ones in the game. If he takes a step back, the Hawks will be in trouble.

More 2017-18 previews:

Boston Celtics

Chicago Bulls

Cleveland Cavaliers

Milwaukee Bucks

Indiana Pacers

Toronto Raptors

Philadelphia 76ers

[RELATED: CAN WALL FOLLOW THROUGH ON KOBE'S CHALLENGE?]

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Wizards Tipoff podcast, Ep. 33 - Sneaker special... it's all about the kicks

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CSN

Wizards Tipoff podcast, Ep. 33 - Sneaker special... it's all about the kicks

On the latest episode of the Wizards Tipoff podcast, we focused entirely on sneakers and how they intersect with the culture of basketball. Chase Hughes and Chris Miller were joined by CSN producers (and sneakerheads) Ajay Atayee and Terrence Stroder in studio.

The four of them brought on two expert guests on the phone. First was Cool Kicks sneaker store owner Daniel Habtemariam. Second was Michael Sykes, a blogger at SB Nation.

You can listen to the episode right here:

You can download the podcast on Apple Podcasts right here and on Google Play. If you like the show please tell your friends!

[RELATED: Keef and Dolph: an odd couple friendship within the Wizards' organization]

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Wizards 2017-18 roster outlook: Jason Smith's improvement as a shooter should help Wizards bench

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Wizards 2017-18 roster outlook: Jason Smith's improvement as a shooter should help Wizards bench

As part of CSN's preview for the 2017-18 season, we are looking at each player on the Wizards' roster. Today, we preview Jason Smith's season...

Player: Jason Smith

Position: Power forward/center

Age: 31

2016-17 stats: 74 G, 14.4 mpg, 5.7 ppg, 0.3 apg, 3.5 rpg, 0.3 spg, 0.7 bpg, 52.9 FG%, 47.4 3P%, 68.6 FT%, 58.5 eFG%, 110 ORtg, 108 DRtg

2017-18 storyline: Smith's first season in Washington didn't get off to a great start, much like the team as a whole. He was among several players struggling on the Wizards' bench early on, shooting just 36.7 percent from the field in 11.8 minutes a night through 16 games. Smith ultimately found his niche despite inconsistent minutes as a key player on the bench with Ian Mahinmi out most of the year due to injury.

Smith made his impact as an energy guy off the bench. At his best, he disrupted shots in the lane and spread the floor with an improving three-point shot. Smith hit two threes in October, November and December. From January on, Smith made 35 of them at a 46.7 percent clip. By March he was knocking down multiple threes per night on a regular basis.

[RELATED: HOW THE NBA CAN PREVENT TANKING]

Smith's emergence as a three-point threat was unexpected, as it happened in his Age 30 season. But it wasn't just luck and it didn't happen overnight. For years Smith practice threes and he had already developed into a solid midrange shooter. It was last year that his range extended beyond the three-point line.

Whether the Wizards can count on Smith to hit threes at a high rate this season is unclear, but that versatility is what could help him remain in head coach Scott Brooks' rotation. If Mahinmi can stay healthy, that will likely mean less minutes for Smith. But if Smith can spread the floor, he can be a nice complement to Mahinmi or Marcin Gortat as a stretch-4.

For as much continuity as there will be in the Wizards' starting lineup, their bench has many new faces. That group also includes Mahinmi, who played only 31 games last year. Smith have a full season in Brooks' system will help him hit the ground running this season in a second unit that will require an adjustment period.

Potential to improve: Chemistry with other bigs, free throw shooting, rim protection.

MORE WIZARDS' ROSTER PREVIEWS:

Can John Wall take another step after earning All-NBA?

Is this the year Bradley Beal becomes an All-Star?

What is the next step in Otto Porter's development?

Markieff Morris can be an X-factor this season

Will Marcin Gortat's role change or be the same this year?

Will Kelly Oubre, Jr. make a big leap this season?

Can Ian Mahinmi make a bigger impact in his second season?

Will Tim Frazier be the solution at backup point guard?

Jodie Meeks could make big impact off bench

Mike Scott can add toughness to Wizards' bench

[RELATED: WHO WILL BE MOST-IMPROVED ON THE WIZARDS THIS YEAR?]

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