Jeff Schultz

This AJC sports blogger takes things seriously when he has to, but he really would rather not

ESPN projects Hawks to finish with NBA's worst record (27 wins)

Atlanta sports fans should be conditioned to this after watching the Braves for most of the past three seasons. But the Hawks have dived into a major/long-term rebuilding project under new general manager Travis Schlenk and are about to be bad. Really bad. Like possibly worst-in-the-NBA bad.

That's according to the latest projections by ESPN writer Kevin Pelton. Pelton projects the Hawks to win only 27 games next season -- fewer than the New York Knicks (32), Brooklyn Nets (29.5) and Chicago Bulls (28.5). His brief summary of the Hawks:

"RPM (ESPN's real plus-minus criteria) has long been low on the Hawks' talent, and that certainly hasn't changed with the departure of (Paul) Millsap. Remarkably, Atlanta has just two players projected to be better than league average by RPM: likely starting big men Dewayne Dedmon and Ersan Ilyasova."

Pelton picks Golden State to finish with the most wins in the Western Conference (62) and Boston with the most in the Eastern (only 49.4). His past projections have had mixed results like most, but it's hard to dispute the 27-win projection based on the Hawks' roster. The Hawks let Millsap leave in free agency, after the previous regime did the same with Al Horford and DeMarre Carroll. Guards Jeff Teague and Kyle Korver left in trades. That starting five won 60 games and went to the Eastern Conference finals in 2014-15.

Right now coach Mike Budenholzer is looking at a potential starting lineup of Dennis Schroder and Kent Bazemore in the backcourt and Ilyasova, Dedmon and Taurean Prince up front. As great of a coach as Budenholzer is, there's only so much the man can squeeze out of the lineup with X's and 0's.

But look at this way: The Hawks are loaded with draft picks over the next few years, and their own pick probably will be the best one of all. So pay attention in the next college basketball season.

According to in its way-too-early 2018 mock draft, the top five players are: Missouri freshman small forward Michael Porter; Texas freshman center Mohamed Bamba; Arizona freshman center DeAndre Ayton; Slovenia shooting guard/small forward Luca Doncik; Texas A&M sophomore power forward/center Robert Williams.

In case you're wondering, 27 wins would still far exceed the Hawks' worst record in franchise history: 13-69 in 2004-05. The team's next worst record since moving to Atlanta was 25-57 in 2000-01.

I put up a poll if you want to vote on the 27-win projection.

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About the Author

Jeff Schultz is a general sports columnist and blogger who isn't afraid to share his opinion, which may not necessarily jibe with yours.