The NBA board of governors today approved changes to the lottery system that will begin with the 2019 draft. With the new format, the three teams with the worst regular-season records each will have a percent 14 chance to win the No. 1 pick. In the current system, the top seed has a 25 percent chance to win the lottery, the second seed has 19.9 percent chance and the third seed has a 15.6 percent chance.
Statistical projections, the betting public and even a video game all expect the Hawks to be among the worst teams in the NBA this season. If the goal is to win the draft lottery, the best outcome for the Hawks is to finish with the worst record in the league this season before the odds get a lot worse in 2019.
Obviously, we don’t know how many games the Hawks will win this year or next, nor do we know for sure what the roster will look like in the near future. It’s impossible to say if the changes for the 2019 draft lottery will hurt the Hawks.
However, when I saw the draft lottery changes I thought about what was (to me) the most candid statement from general manager Travis Schlenk’s pre-camp news conference.
I don’t’ mean the part where Schlenk said the Hawks will be young this season and “historically, teams who are young take it on the chin a little bit.” The new GM would squander credibility if he didn’t acknowledge that reality.
Instead, I’m thinking about when Schlenk later said that with nine picks in the next two drafts “there’s a high probability that we are going to be even a little bit younger next year.” In other words, the Hawks likely won’t win much this year and probably won’t win much next year either because this isn’t a quick fix.
Again, there are so many variables for the Hawks before the 2019 draft arrives. There will be trades, free-agent signings, players developing (or not), draft picks, injuries, etc. The Hawks could be better than expected by then.
But if the Hawks are going to be the very worst team in the league, now is the time.
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