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 thus the best odds in the draft lottery. The stakes are high: After the 2018 draft the odds for the team with the worst record winning the lottery decrease dramatically .
Here is a look at the lottery prospects for the five teams with the worst projected records in the latest FiveThirtyEight.com predictions, starting with the worst team first (ties broken by rating):
1. Suns (18-39)
Projected FiveThirtyEight record: 24-58
Hawks fans upset by the trajectory of the franchise might find some solace by looking at the Suns. They have lost six of seven games by a staggering average margin of 20.5 points. That bad run prompted the FiveThirtyEight model to shave three victories from Phoenix’s projected record. The good news for the Suns is that Devin Booker, still just 21-years old, looks like a star in the making. Of course, the Suns could foul up their rebuild if GM Ryan McDonough makes mistakes while executing his plan to be aggressive in free agency during the offseason.
2. Kings (17-38)
Projected FiveThirtyEight record: 25-57
Among all the coaches with teams aiming for the draft lottery, Dave Joerger has seemed to be the most in sync with his front office’s plan. Joerger wasn’t playing his best players maximum minutes so the Kings didn’t need to trade any of them. But they did so, anyway, sending away George Hill for Joe Johnson and then waiving Johnson. Now GM Vlade Divac is under pressure to find a star in the next draft. The Kings waived his 2016 draft lottery acquisition, Georgios Papagiannis, and the Sixers own Sacramento’s 2019 first-round pick.
3. Hawks (18-39)
FiveThirtyEight projected record: 25-57
A 4-5 record over the past two weeks by the Hawks only resulted in one win added by FiveThirtyEight’s projection. I get it. The Hawks have a bad record against what’s been a relatively easy schedule, which means their schedule will toughen over the final 25 games. But some factors could result in the the Hawks beating that projected record. Among them: Dewayne Dedmon supplanting Miles Plumlee in the starting lineup; Ersan Ilyasova rejecting a trade; and games against the Warriors, Rockets and Celtics at times when those teams could be resting their regulars for the playoffs.
4. Grizzlies (18-37)
Projected FiveThirtyEight record: 27-55
A tough slate of games over two weeks chewed up the Grizzlies, who have lost eight of their last nine games. The Hawks are the one sure-fire lottery team the Grizzlies played during that stretch and they lost by 26 point. Also, the Grizzlies didn’t deal Tyreke Evans at the trade deadline. Now he’ll be around to help make them respectable (unless he’s bought out) and then he could bolt as a free agent this summer.
5. Nets (19-38)
Projected FiveThirtyEight record: 27-55
The Nets had a 10-14 record through Dec. 7. They are 9-24 since with losses in eight of their past nine games. Injuries remain an issue. However, the Nets may have hurt their lottery chances a bit at the trade deadline by adding a useful player (Dante Cunningham) and sending away a player who recently had fallen out of the rotation (Tyler Zeller).
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