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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?

NBC Sports Washington 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.

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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 at Raptors: TV, live stream and radio info, things to watch

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Wizards at Raptors: TV, live stream and radio info, things to watch

John Wall, Bradley Beal, Otto Porter and the Washington Wizards battle Kyle Lowry, DeMar DeRozan, Serge Ibaka and the Toronto Raptors on Sunday afternoon.

Here is all you need to know: TV, live stream and radio info, tip-off time, plus three things to watch…

WASHINGTON WIZARDS AT TORONTO RAPTORS

Where: Air Canada Centre
Tip-off: 3:30 p.m.
TV: NBC Sports Washington (coverage begins at 3 p.m.)
Live stream: NBCSportsWashington.com
Online with no cable TV: fuboTV (try for free)
Radio: 1500 AM

Three things to watch...

Will Wall play?

The Wizards could play at the Raptors without their star point guard for the second time this season. John Wall was limited against the Miami Heat on Friday night due to fluid buildup in his left knee and his status is up in the air. The Wizards have a back-to-back set with the Raptors on Sunday and the Bucks on Monday and it would not be a surprise if he missed one of those games.

If Wall can't go against the Raptors, the Wizards will again rely heavily on Tim Frazier. Tomas Satoransky should get some burn, but also look for Bradley Beal and Otto Porter to bring the ball up. Head coach Scott Brooks had them generate the offense at times in the first meeting between the teams and it worked well enough to earn them a win. 

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Defense will get a good test

The biggest reason the Wizards are 4-1 in their past five games is their defense. In each of those outings they have held their opponents to under 100 points. In Toronto, however, they will see a better offensive team than they did in any of their previous five games.

The Raptors can score with the best of them. They rank third in the NBA in points per game (111.1) and third in offensive rating (113.2). They have the second-best team field goal percentage (48.7) and are tied for 10th in three-pointers made per game (10.9). DeMar DeRozan leads the charge. He's averaging 24.7 points on 47.3 percent shooting. Last time these teams played, the Wizards held DeRozan to 8-for-21 from the field.

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Raptors have some injuries

Toronto won't be feeling sorry for Wall and the Wizards. They have their own injuries to worry about, most notably with Serge Ibaka who like Wall has a swollen left knee. Ibaka missed Friday night's win over the Knicks and is questionable for Sunday's matchup.

Beyond Ibaka, the Raptors are also missing point guard Delon Wright, who is out with a dislocated shoulder. Shooting guard Norman Powell could also miss Sunday's game with a hip pointer. He has been out in three straight games.

[RELATED: KELLY OUBRE CAN SEE WHY DURANT MADE A FAKE TWITTER ACCOUNT]

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The NBA wants to end the one-and-done rule and the timing is right

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The NBA wants to end the one-and-done rule and the timing is right

The NBA is building momentum towards a significant change in their draft entry rules. NBA Commissioner Adam Silver has been outspoken about his preference to change the so-called one-and-done rule and on Thursday he met with the newly created Commission on College Basketball in Washington, D.C. to discuss the subject.

The meeting was first reported by ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski, who says the league could once again let high school players be drafted. The compromise could be a rule requiring those who go to college to stay for at least two years. That would be similar to Major League Baseball, which stipulates three years of college.

Would a similar rule be a good idea for the NBA? While the players' union would like the option to go straight from high school, there was a reason the one-and-done rule was implemented in the 2006 collective bargaining agreement. The perception back then was that players left for the NBA too early and many flamed out because of it. The thought was that some players would have had better careers if they were older and more experienced when they became professionals.

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Darius Miles, Kwame Brown, Eddy Curry and Sebastian Telfair are notorious cases of draft busts who came out of high school. Many wondered if those guys would have been better off with a year in college to adjust to life on their own and with an intermediary step up in competition.

But there are important differences in the NBA's structure nowadays. Now there is a robust minor league system with G-League affiliates all over the country. There are also two-way contracts, allowing teams to pay more money to a prospect and have more flexibility in bringing them up to the NBA. Players don't have to adjust as quickly as they used to.

The G-League is going to continue to expand and the perception keeps changing. Now, it is more common to see players have a stint in the G-League either for development purposes or injury rehabilitation. Player development of baseball players is different, but the MLB's well-established minor league system is the reason why their rule allowing high school players to go pro really works.

The one year in college under the one-and-done rule, however, does have some positives. Most notably, it allows NBA teams to get a better read on draft prospects. Instead of evaluating guys exclusively in high school and AAU, they get to see them play in the ACC, SEC and other big college conferences.

NBA front offices may be hurt by it, but the time is right to go back to high school players entering the pros. Things are much different than they were in 2006 and the league can handle it. Ending the one-and-done rule would be better for the players and it should also make a lot of college basketball fans happy.

That is the good of what the NBA is considering, however, the rule requiring two years of college should not be part of the equation. If the NBA wants to grant some freedom, then actually do it. Some players may need just one year of college and nothing more. Don't punish them for it.

The two-year requirement seems like a very bad idea, but it could be part of the deal. Either way, it seems like the one-and-done rule could come to an end sooner than later and it's for the best.

[PODCAST: BRADLEY BEAL GOES 1-ON-1]