Jeff Schultz

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

Hawks’ tank failed, but lottery luck and Minnesota win would help


The Hawks met their future Tuesday night, or so they hope.

They ended their season with a 121-113 loss to the team formerly known as the Philadelphia Tankopotamusses. Philly is 26-5 in the last 31 games, 50-31 overall and a darkhorse to win the Eastern Conference playoffs -- this from a team that in the previous four seasons did everything but send players onto the court blindfolded or with hubcaps tied to their feet, resulting in win totals of 19, 18, 10 and 28.

So. This could be the Hawks one day soon, right?

Like post-Philips Arena renovations but pre-apocalypse?

“That’s kind of the plan right now,” general manager Travis Schlenk said Tuesday night. “They built it through the draft and accumulated assets, and that’s kind of what we’re hoping to do.”

The Hawks finished the season 24-58. It’s their worst record since going 13-69 in 2004-05. But it wasn’t nearly bad enough, if you’re into that whole, we’re-going-to-stink-so-we-might-as-well-tank thing, and course you are. By winning two straight and three of five before Tuesday’s game -- what were they thinking? -- they effectively smothered themselves in the three-legged race for the best possible odds at the No. 1 draft pick.

Here’s the way the draft odds stand now:

-- 1. Phoenix (21-61): The Suns have a 25 percent chance to win the lottery. They went 5-38 since Jan. 3, including 0-14 in March. The Suns gave out unused organs for fan appreciation night.

-- 2. Memphis (22-59): The Grizzlies have one game left but have clinched the second seed in the lottery and have a 19.9 percent chance at the top pick. They lost 11 straight after a 7-4 start and 19 in a row more recently. Imagine going to all that orchestrated misery and still not being assured of the best draft odds.

-- 3. (tie) Hawks and Dallas (24-58): At the moment, the two-way tie will give each team a 13.75 percent chance.

-- 5. Orlando (24-57): If the Magic win their last game at Washington, they’ll have an 8.8 percent chance. If they lose, the Hawks, Mavericks and Magic will finish tied and each will have a 12.1 percent chance of winning.

It could’ve been so much easier if coach Mike Budenholzer just bench a couple of more guys or, possibly, tripped them in practice. But he’s not wired that way. Neither are players. They’re looking out for their best interests, and their best interest isn’t intentionally faceplanting for a team that they might not even be a part of.

Imagine that conversation in free agency:

General manager X (as he looks at game tape): “You really stunk in this game.”

Player X: “Yeah, but I did that for you. Don’t I get a raise?”

General manager X: “We’re cutting you.”

Truth is, Schlenk has seemed less focused on the Hawks’ final record than how Minnesota finishes. It makes sense, in the end, lottery is about luck and the Timberwolves’ impact on the Hawks’ draft is absolute. The Hawks get the Timberworves’ lottery-protected first-round pick from an earlier trade if they make the playoffs, which will happen if Minnesota wins at home against Denver.

. Having a third first-rounder -- they also own Houston’s pick -- would significantly change the trade dynamics in the week’s leading up to the draft.

The draft lottery is still about luck. The worst team doesn’t always get the pick (although it did the last three years). There’s a 25 percent chance of winning but a 75-percent chance of losing.

So there’s your comforting thought for the Hawks not losing enough.

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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.