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Projecting the Hawks over the final 26 games

Atlanta Hawks v San Antonio Spurs Photo by Ronald Cortes/Getty Images

Given that many — including the good folks in Las Vegas — projected the Atlanta Hawks for a win total in the low-to-mid 30’s, the 2019-20 NBA season hasn’t gone according to plan for Tony Ressler’s bunch. However, the NBA All-Star break brings with it an opportunity to reset and, in the 16 games prior to the league descending on Chicago for a festival of sorts, the Hawks posted a respectable 7-9 record that represented tangible improvement.

With that in mind, we will take a look at what to expect in the second “half” of the campaign, with Atlanta scheduled to take the floor on 26 more occasions this season.

The roster

At the trade deadline, Travis Schlenk and the front office were quite active, upgrading the center position for both the present and future. Newly acquired center Clint Capela hasn’t yet debuted for the Hawks but, if nothing else, the presence of Dewayne Dedmon — and the combination of Jeff Teague and Brandon Goodwin at backup point guard — represents an upgrade on what the Hawks had for much of the first half of the campaign.

In addition, Atlanta battled well-chronicled roster issues in the first 56 games. The 25-game suspension for John Collins is the most glaring example, with the team posting a 10-20 record with the third-year big man in the lineup and a ghastly 5-21 mark when Collins doesn’t appear. In addition, Kevin Huerter missed 11 games, Trae Young missed six, Cam Reddish missed eight and Jabari Parker only appeared in 32 contests before being dealt to Sacramento.

There is a reasonable discussion to be had as to how good the Hawks should have been this season with the roster as it was constructed. What everyone can agree on, though, is that Atlanta’s roster — both earlier in the season and especially now — is better than its 15-41 record indicates.

The schedule

As discussed on numerous occasions in this space, the Hawks’ schedule was always going to be difficult before the All-Star break and (much) easier after it. That proved to be the case, with ESPN indicating that Atlanta’s schedule has been the 6th-most difficult to this point and Basketball-Reference placing the Hawks in the No. 3 spot in terms of difficulty.

Looking ahead, Basketball-Reference also projects Atlanta for the easiest schedule in the NBA the rest of the way, illustrating the stark contrast. Part of that can be explained by the presence of 15 home games, compared to only 11 contests on the road, but the Hawks also face many teams that currently occupy the league’s bottom tier. Among them are match-ups against the Hornets (three times), Wizards (twice), Knicks, Cavaliers, Warriors and Pistons.

Of course, a breezier schedule doesn’t guarantee wins, but it certainly should bring increased optimism.

The projection models

Obviously, FiveThirtyEight is the most earnest with regard to the Hawks, though a 13-13 record is perfectly conceivable given the schedule and current roster. The “consensus” does trend lower, though, which is something to keep in mind.

For a non-model projection, the good folks at released updated over-under win totals during the All-Star break and placed the Hawks at 25.5 victories. Atlanta would need to post a record of 11-15 after the break to hit the ‘over’ on that number.

Ultimately, a projection somewhere in the middle is likely the most responsible, placing the Hawks in the 26 or 27-win range for the full season. As noted earlier, that would be a “disappointment” for the full campaign but, in short, reassessing things at this point would be wise and keeping things in perspective would lead to a win total in the high-20’s being relatively favorable given the woeful start.

The Hawks begin their post-break run on Thursday with a home game against the Miami Heat.

Stay tuned.