Mike Check

Michael Cunningham’s ramblings from the world of sports

NBA draft lottery watch: Hawks face stiff competition in race to bottom

The rebuilding Hawks largely will depend on the draft to add talent but they have plenty of competition in the race to the bottom of the NBA standings and this best lottery odds. The stakes are high: After this season, the odds of the team with the worst record winning the lottery decrease dramatically .

Here is a look at the five teams with the worst projected records in the latest FiveThirtyEight.com predictions, starting with the worst team first:

1. Kings (1-6; 22-59 projected FiveThirtyEight record)

The Hawks were in the bottom before Tuesday night’s games. Then the Kings were blown out by Indiana, their fifth L in a row, and FiveThirtyEight shaved three wins off their projected record. An interesting development for the Kings, as noted by Jason Jones of the Sacramento Bee: “Garrett Temple is latest King to sit out a game with rest as the reason. Zach Randolph and George Hill sat out Sunday’s loss to Washington. Rather than wait until the end of the season, the Kings are sitting veterans now to give opportunities to young players and look at different lineups.” Hmmm . . .

Significant injuries: None.

Up next: at Celtics (5-2) tonight, at Pistons (5-3) Sat., vs. Thunder (4-3) Tues.

2. Bulls (1-4; 23-59 projected FiveThirtyEight record)

The Bulls followed up their victory over the Hawks by taking a 31-point L to the Thunder. That dropped their average point differential to -12.2 and FiveThirtyEight predicts they’ll finish with a -7.2 differential, second-worst behind the Kings (-7.6).

Significant injuries: Nikola Mirotic is expected to miss at least another month because of a concussion sustained in the fight with Bobby Portis. Portis is out another four games because of a suspension for that fight.

Up next: at Heat (2-4) tonight, at Magic (5-2) Fri., vs. Pelicans (3-4) Sat., at Raptors (4-2) Tues..

3. Hawks (1-6; 23-59 projected FiveThirtyEight record)

The Hawks were third-worst in the FiveThirtyEight projections last week but slid to the bottom spot with three more losses for six in a row. Among the losses was a defeat at the Bulls, who occupied the bottom spot in last week’s Lottery Watch. The Hawks have a slightly lower ELO rating than the Bulls.

Significant injuries: Starting power forward Ersan Ilyasova joined DeAndre’ Bembry on the injured list. Ilyasova is out at least another few days.

Up next: at Sixers (3-4) tonight, vs. Rockets (5-3) Fri., at Cavs (3-4) Sun., vs. Celtics (5-2) Mon.

4. Mavericks (1-7; 25-57 FiveThirtyEight projected record)

The Mavs have lost three in a row since earning their first victory against the Grizz. Their big-picture issue, as highlighted by Josh Bowe of Mavs Moneyball: “Dallas is trying to straddle the line between rebuilding and being relevant, and it’s almost impossible to pull off. . . . We have a Mavericks team that’s 1-7 but still playing a 39-year-old over 25 minutes a night (Dirk Nowitzki) and giving two over-30 guards big minutes off the bench (J.J. Barea and Devin Harris).”

Significant injuries: Seth Curry has been on the shelf since the preseason but could return soon.

Up next: at Clippers (4-2) tonight, vs. Pelicans (3-4) Fri., at T-Wolves (4-3) Mon., at Wizards (4-2) Tues.

5. Nets (3-5; 27-55 FiveThirtyEight projected record)

FiveThirtyEight’s projection was not impressed by Brooklyn’s 3-2 start that included a W against the Cavs. Sure enough, the Nets have lost three in a row since then, including a home loss against the Suns last night.

Significant injuries: Jeremy Lin (knee) is out for the season.

Up next: at Lakers (3-4) Fri.., at Suns (3-4) Mon., at Nuggets (3-4) Tues.

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About the Author

Michael Cunningham has covered the Hawks and other beats for the AJC since 2010. He is the author of the AJC’s Mike Check blog.