Every Atlanta Hawks fan has a unified second-favorite NBA team for the remaining portion of the regular NBA season: whoever is playing the Brooklyn Nets. A couple of weeks ago, it seemed virtually certain that the Nets would miss the playoffs and guarantee Atlanta a lottery pick. With no incentive to lose, Brooklyn has made a couple of small moves to strengthen their playoff chances. Their demand to get back an asset for one of their monstrous contracts is a disaster for fans in Brooklyn as they have less hope for a turnaround in the near future. Unfortunately, it is also bad news for Atlanta as the Nets have just enough talent to compete for a playoff spot.
The acquisition of Thaddeus Young at the trade deadline should strengthen the roster, but it still seems to be short of enough to finish in the top 2 of the Pacers, Pistons, Heat, Celtics, and Hornets. John Hollinger's playoff projections give the Nets a 25% chance of making the playoffs with the most favorable odds leaving them with the 10th slot in the 2015 NBA Draft. A couple of weeks ago, those odds were as low as 8% with Brooklyn slated to finish as low as the 7th slot. With season-ending injuries to Miami's Chris Bosh and Boston's Jared Sullinger, the window to the playoffs has widened a little bit for a suddenly healthy Brooklyn squad. While the Nets have a reasonable shot at the playoffs, Atlanta remains likely to be collecting a lottery ticket at season's end.
With 6 teams certain to finish behind the Nets and two Western Conference teams projected to finish comfortably ahead, Atlanta has a 70% chance to select between 7th and 12th in the 2015 NBA Draft. With a less than 5% chance to get a ping-pong pick, Atlanta has a relatively small board of prospects to consider in the 7-12 range. Selecting in that range is optimal in a draft that gets considerably weaker after the lottery selections. Looking at current evaluations, Duke's Jahlil Okafor, Kentucky's Karl Towns, Ohio State's D'Angelo Russell, and Emmanuel Mudiay should be off the board by the time selections 7-12 are made. Those 4 players have separated themselves from other prospects and that leaves the following dozen prospects as the players most likely to hear their name called when Atlanta makes their selection:
Consensus Top Prospects Remaining
Stanley Johnson, Freshman, SF, Arizona (6'8, 243)
Justise Winslow, Freshman, SF, Duke (6'6, 221)
Kristaps Porzingis, 19, PF, Latvia (7'0, 220)
Mario Hezonja, 20, SG/SF, Croatia (6'8, 200)
Myles Turner, Freshman, PF/C, Texas (6'11, 242)
Kelly Oubre, Freshman, SF/sg, Kansas (6'6, 204)
Frank Kaminsky, Senior, PF/c, Wisconsin (7'0, 242) [PROFILE]
Willie Cauley-Stein, C, Kentucky (7'0, 244) [PROFILE]
Kevon Looney, PF, UCLA (6''9, 220)
Prospect Rated Higher by Peachtree Hoops
Jerian Grant, Senior, SG/pg, Notre Dame (6'5, 204)
Caris LeVert, Junior, SG, Michigan (6'7, 200) [PROFILE]
Devin Booker, Freshman, SG, Kentucky (6'6, 186)
If Atlanta chooses to keep its 2015 draft pick, the odds are very strong that one of the players listed above will be selected. In the months ahead, each of these prospects will be given a closer look as the 2015 NBA Draft approaches. In a draft weak on point guards and lacking depth around the middle of the first round, the Hawks have found fortune both in getting the Nets' selection and doing so in a year where the pick could be in an ideal position to add a strong prospect to an already deep roster.