Before the 2018-19 NBA season began, it was clear (at least to most) that the Atlanta Hawks would be jockeying for NBA Draft Lottery position, rather than battling for a playoff spot. After 32 games, that is even more clear but, in the same breath, there is intrigue with how the rest of the campaign will play out (especially after three straight wins), and 50 more games to consume before turning the page to the off-season.
With that in mind, it is time to take a look at what a handful of projection systems see in the future for the Hawks, keeping in mind that things can be fluid with regard to things like trades and injuries. For the most part, systems like these are proprietary in that we don’t know the entire formula that is baked into the mix but, to combat that, let’s take a look at four different projections and how they treat Atlanta.
This is perhaps the system best known in the basketball community, as Nate Silver’s crew updates their numbers after each and every game. It is based on their CARMELO projections (something we’ve discussed in this space previously) and the system weighs a number of factors.
With regard to how the system treats Lloyd Pierce’s team, the Hawks are currently projected as the 3rd-worst team in the NBA. The New York Knicks and Cleveland Cavaliers (say farewell to the top-10 protected pick) trail Atlanta in this particular space and, unsurprisingly, the Hawks are given less than a one percent chance to make the postseason.
In similar fashion to FiveThirtyEight, the good folks at TeamRankings place the Hawks at No. 28 in the overall NBA pecking order. The difference is that, instead of the Knicks and Cavs trailing Atlanta, it is Cleveland and Phoenix occupying the NBA’s basement in this forecast. Oh, and the Hawks are actually given a 0.0 percent chance to make the playoffs, which seems unnecessarily cruel.
Another system and another 3rd-worst projection. Amusingly, another different pair of teams trails the Hawks, as the Chicago Bulls make an appearance in the bottom tier alongside the Suns.
As you can see, though, NumberFire is easily the most optimistic with regard to overall record for the Hawks and, in truth, it appears the system brings every team in the NBA closer to the middle. This forecast has the worst team in the league with 24.5 projected victories and, at the top, the Raptors are projected for only 54.5 wins as the league’s best team.
Unlike the other systems discussed here, Basketball-Reference expressly brands its numbers as a playoff projection system, indicating that “results are based on 7500 simulations of the remainder of season.” Obviously, Atlanta isn’t likely to make a playoff run (in fact the system doesn’t even assign a chance for it) but the numbers point to a realistic best-case scenario of 37-45 (which would actually have a good chance to crash the playoff party) and a worst-case scenario of 14-68.
In the end, everyone is guessing with regard to how the rest of the season will shake out for the Hawks and, in Atlanta’s position, it is particularly difficult to parse amid buzz that players like Kent Bazemore, Dewayne Dedmon and Jeremy Lin could change teams between now and February. Still, numbers like these can be instructive with regard to building realistic expectations and, to put it plainly, they also offer fodder for discussion.