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Checking back with Hawks preseason predictions

Atlanta Hawks v Orlando Magic Photo by Julio Aguilar/Getty Images

The Atlanta Hawks had fairly high expectations entering this season. Their over/under win total on Draft Kings was 46.5 heading into the season. The Hawks would need to go 19-5 over their final 24 games to hit the over on that mark, which seems fairly unlikely at this point. Preseason, we were even higher, projecting Atlanta for 53 wins and 29 losses. The Hawks are 28-30 entering the All-Star break, having already eclipsed those 29 defeats with over two months left in the season.

Our “best case” for the Hawks in our preseason preview was Atlanta winning the NBA Finals. That may be as unlikely as ever at this point, but it’s still on the table for now. Our “worst case” may end up coming to fruition. That scenario was the Hawks having to play in the play-in tournament to earn a playoff spot. As the No. 10 seed entering the break, Atlanta has quite a bit of work to do to avoid that scenario and cracking the top-6 in the Eastern Conference.

The “most likely” scenario we laid out before the season may be all but dead. A top-3 seed in the East seems fairly unlikely at this point, no matter how well the Hawks play down the stretch this season. There are just a lot of teams in the East playing well this season, a run that far up the standings doesn’t seem to be in the cards this time around. Atlanta is five games behind the No. 6 seed Boston Celtics, and 6.5 games behind the No. 5 seed Philadelphia 76ers.

The Hawks being without De’Andre Hunter, Bogdan Bogdanovic and Onyeka Okongwu for stretches of the season has no doubt made an impact, but it’s not an excuse for them to be the No. 10 seed. Atlanta has severely underwhelmed on the defensive end this season, posting one of the worst defensive ratings in the NBA through their first 58 games. The Hawks have made up for that to some extent by being elite offensively, but the overall result has them as a middling team heading into the All-Star break.

Atlanta still may have some light at the end of the tunnel, however. The Hawks are 11-5 in their last 16 games, and have one of the easier schedules remaining around the league. They could conceivably make a run at that No. 6 spot to secure a postseason spot, but either way they should be able to make their way up the ladder and potentially at least better their chances at a home play-in game.

If Atlanta does wind up getting into the postseason, they could prove to be a tough matchup for whoever they face in a series. Trae Young & company have proven they can get the job done offensively in the postseason, so if the Hawks are able to find some defensive rhythm in a seven-game setting, who knows what could happen this time around.

Atlanta should be able to finish around 15-9 or 16-8 with their remaining schedule, maybe a little better if they get hot. A 15-9 finish would leave the Hawks with a 43-39 record, and likely in the No. 7-10 seed range as a play-in team. A 17-7 record or better would likely be necessary in order to get into the mix for the No. 6 seed, but it’s tough to project that type of closing run. Atlanta is +13000 to win the NBA title and +5500 to win the Eastern Conference on Draft Kings heading into All-Star weekend.

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