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Atlanta Hawks projected for 10th-place finish by ESPN

NBA: Atlanta Hawks at Utah Jazz Chris Nicoll-USA TODAY Sports

Much has been made of ESPN’s RPM projections tempering enthusiasm surrounding the Atlanta Hawks. On Wednesday, a panel of experts from the worldwide leader combined for a friendlier evaluation of Lloyd Pierce’s team.

As part of ESPN’s summer forecast, the group voted on the projected order of finish in the Eastern Conference and the Hawks landed in the No. 10 spot. The projection came with a record of 34-48 and, while Atlanta was seven games out of the No. 8 spot (held by Orlando), the voting did have the Hawks narrowly out-pacing their consensus Las Vegas over/under projection.

As part of a 5-on-5 roundtable, Chris Herring of ESPN shared positive thoughts about the Hawks as one of the more underrated teams in the NBA:

I wasn’t in love with some of the Hawks’ summer moves (the Jabari Parker signing doesn’t strike me as a great fit), but I wouldn’t be surprised if they make a slightly bigger jump than what’s projected here (34 wins, No. 10). We all know about Trae Young, but if other youngsters like John Collins and Kevin Huerter show linear growth -- and the team can actually learn to make stops -- I think Atlanta could get closer to the high 30s. After a 21-41 start, the Hawks came to life and played nearly .500 basketball in March. They seem another year or two away from doing real damage, but I wouldn’t be surprised if they give chase for that last spot in the East.

In the grand scheme, there is nothing ground-breaking here, but a bit more optimism is never a bad thing to display. At the very least, the human voting at ESPN likes the Hawks more than their (controversial) RPM projection and the nine teams projected ahead of Atlanta — including last season’s eight playoff teams and the Jimmy Butler-led Miami Heat — actually make sense on paper.

Stay tuned.