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Atlanta Hawks draft plans could be changing as Timberwolves slip in standings

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The loss of Minnesota’s best player to injury has changed the course.

NBA: Minnesota Timberwolves at Atlanta Hawks Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

For the better part of the 2017-18 NBA season, the Minnesota Timberwolves were settled in the third or fourth spot in the Western Conference standings. Given that the Hawks will get the Timberwolves first round pick should Minnesota make the playoffs, it looked like the Hawks might enter the draft with two picks in the last 6 spots or so in addition to their own lottery pick. The Houston pick will certainly convey in this draft and could end up being the very last pick in the first round.

Minnesota is 2-4 since the All-Star break with their only wins coming against the lowly Sacramento Kings and Chicago Bulls, teams against whom the Hawks are battling with for ping pong balls. Their next four games are against Golden State, Washington, San Antonio and Houston and it’s not the least bit improbable that they could lose all four of those games given that their injured All-Star Jimmy Butler is not expected to return to the court until the last week of March at the soonest.

The scheduled gets a little lighter for the Timberwolves after the immediate, grueling stretch of games and appears to be quite favorable until April arives. They play the Utah Jazz and the Denver Nuggets in three of their final five games of the season. And the results of those games very well could have a tremendous impact as to which teams end up in and out of the Western Conference playoffs.

So this seems an appropriate time to check in on the projections sites to see how likely it is that the Minnesota pick will convey and if so at what spot might the Hawks be picking.

Prior to NBA play on Friday, 538 gives the Timberwolves an 88% chance of making the playoffs and projects them to have the 11th best record in the league. Should that prove to hold up the Hawks would be picking 20th in the upcoming draft.

Numberfire sees Minnesota making the playoffs as a 93.2% probability but projections them to finish with the 13th best record in the league. In that scenario the Hawks would be picking in the 18th spot in the draft.

ESPN’s BPI model projects them to secure the fifth seed in the Western Conference playoffs and end the season with the 7th best record in the league. Should things shake out this way the Hawks would be picking in the 24th spot in the draft.

It is (very) important to note, however, that none of these projection systems account for the fact that Butler will not be playing in a majority of these games.

At the moment, the Timberwolves, along with the Spurs and Thunder, sit two games ahead of the Clippers, Nuggets and Jazz who are tied for the 8th spot in the Western Conference standings.

Minnesota has one game remaining versus the Los Angeles Clippers and have already clinched the season series by winning all three of their match ups on the season to this point.

The Wolves also have one game remaining against the Utah Jazz which will determine the season series as the teams have split the two games they have played thus far this season.

Minnesota then has those two games against the Nuggets in April with the season series still undetermined. The Timberwolves have won both of the match-ups with Denver thus far and as such have control of their own destiny at least as it relates to a potential tie breaker with the Nuggets.

Scoreboard watching time has arrived for Hawks fans. And the rest of the Timberwolves season could be a topic of great interest in this final stretch of this NBA season.