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ESPN’s RPM projections illustrate gloomy picture for Atlanta Hawks in 2016-2017

Well, that was worse than expected.

NBA: New York Knicks at Atlanta Hawks Jason Getz-USA TODAY Sports

In the interest of full disclosure, I didn’t love what the Atlanta Hawks did in free agency. This isn’t a secret to anyone who has read my thoughts since July 1 or anyone who has listened to the Locked On Hawks podcast (and you should!), but it is worth mentioning at the top of this particular post.

With that in mind, a prominent projection system has produced an even more pessimistic viewpoint for Mike Budenholzer’s team in 2016-2017 and Kevin Pelton of ESPN Insider ($) brings the details after pegging Atlanta for 38.6 victories.

RPM has had a tough time forecasting the Hawks, pegging Atlanta for near-.500 records each of the past two seasons, when the Hawks have actually finished second and fourth in the East. This time, Atlanta may have to beat its projection to make the playoffs.

While Pelton himself does not necessarily subscribe to this level of negativity (and the system was too low in the past two seasons, as noted above), it is certainly worth noting that the numbers, at least in this case, say otherwise. The 38.6-win projection is good for a 9th-place finish the Eastern Conference and, without giving the entire column away, that places the Hawks behind teams like the Charlotte Hornets and Milwaukee Bucks.

It would take a significant leap of faith to think that, sans injury, the Hawks are likely to win fewer than 40 games. Personally, I believe that the defensive baseline (provided with buy-in and health for Dwight Howard) provides some cushion for Atlanta in this regard, but the simple possibility that the Hawks could struggle and eventually produce a final mark in the .500 range does exist.

Again, I would not go as far as to say that I expect the Atlanta Hawks to finish with a sub-.500 record next season, but the scenario exists and at least one statistical projection just outlined it for all to see.