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ESPN’s RPM projections bury Atlanta Hawks in Eastern Conference basement

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Good for the pro-tanking crowd.

NBA: Playoffs-Washington Wizards at Atlanta Hawks Jason Getz-USA TODAY Sports

Various projection systems have begun to weigh in on both the Atlanta Hawks and the rest of the NBA. As with any season, there will be disagreement on the overall projection for Mike Budenholzer’s team but, for now, the consensus is that it will be a long season in terms of few wins and a bevy of losses.

First, CBS Sports listed the Hawks as one of 11 teams that are actually closer to the No. 1 pick than they are to the playoffs, albeit with a relatively rosy win-loss projection based on their SportsLine mathematical model. This time, ESPN Insider’s Kevin Pelton brings word of RPM projections that do not treat Atlanta with kindness.

The result? A projected 15th-place (read: last-place) finish in both the Eastern Conference and the NBA overall with 27 victories.

RPM has long been low on the Hawks' talent, and that certainly hasn't changed with the departure of Millsap. Remarkably, Atlanta has just two players projected to be better than league average by RPM: likely starting big men Dewayne Dedmon and Ersan Ilyasova.

27 victories likely won’t “win” the race for the worst record in the league but, as with most models, things gather in the middle. Beyond that, teams like the Chicago Bulls, Brooklyn Nets and Sacramento Kings are within shouting distance of the Hawks and it wouldn’t take a shocking turn of events to push things in a different direction.

Pelton admits that RPM has never enjoyed Atlanta in recent years, though last year’s projection of 39 wins actually proved to be fairly accurate from a standpoint of net rating. Still, the reality that RPM treats Dedmon and Ilyasova as the team’s best players is an indictment of both Dennis Schröder (Hawks fans won’t like this evaluation but RPM ranked the young point guard at No. 54 among PGs a season ago) and, to a lesser extent, Kent Bazemore and it could spell trouble.

At this point, nearly everyone is aware that 2017-2018 will be a transition year for the Hawks, even if there is some buzz that Mike Budenholzer could serve as something of a miracle worker with a functional roster. ESPN’s projections don’t take that into account in the same way that the eye test and belief in a top-10 coach would but, from a talent standpoint, 27 wins isn’t a crazy projection, even if unfortunate to consider depending on your philosophy.