How Does the Hawks Tank Look with 5 Games Left?

Tyler Dorsey #2 of the Atlanta Hawks (Photo by Rocky Widner/NBAE via Getty Images)
Tyler Dorsey #2 of the Atlanta Hawks (Photo by Rocky Widner/NBAE via Getty Images) /

After cruising past a bored-out-of-their-minds Orlando Magic team on Sunday evening, the Atlanta Hawks pulled even in the win column with Orlando at 22 total wins apiece.

Even though the Hawks have clearly been one of the worst teams in the league this season, they have banked three wins after the All-Star break that might come back to bite them when ping pong balls come calling on May 15th at the NBA’s draft lottery.

First, the team pulled victory from the jaws of defeat versus the Phoenix Suns in Phoenix as Taurean Waller-Prince swished a leaning, game-winning three to beat the Suns 113-112 on March 4. Then, more improbably, Dennis Schröder erupted for a career-high 41 points against the scalding-hot Utah Jazz and beat them by a final margin of 99 to 94 on March 20. Lastly, Tyler Dorsey scored a career-high 19 points against the Magic to put the icing on a triumvirate of improbable victories for Atlanta.

Though winning games is certainly not the end of the world for this Hawks team, they would be better served by dropping a few tough ones down the stretch to better their ping pong-ball odds in the lottery.

The injury bug is certainly doing its part, with team stalwarts Kent Bazemore and Dennis Schröder out for the rest of the year with various injuries. Malcolm Delaney, who has not played since March 4, is still out with an ankle injury, and his status for the rest of the season is unknown.

With Baze and Schröd out, that leaves Atlanta without two of its best players, which will certainly help the tank in theory. Baze in particular is a winning player, though the team had no problem losing games with in the lineup early in the season.

Perhaps the biggest help for the Hawks’ tank through the final five games will be their exceedingly tough schedule.

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Atlanta will play 5 playoff-bound teams that have a combined winning percentage of 58.2 percent. That just falls behind Oklahoma City for the second-hardest schedule down the stretch (OKC’s stand at a 58.4% combined winning percentage among opponents).

With the third-hardest schedule, Atlanta should have a great chance to lose out and finish the season with a 22-60 record, which while certainly an ugly line, would put them in terrific position to nab a top-3 pick.

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The Hawks will play the Celtics, the 76ers, the Wizards and the Heat twice during their final run, and almost all of those teams will be playing for playoff seeding. Atlanta has little to play for, so it is likely that these games will feature some top-flight tanking decreed from Hawks brass. By comparison, the Grizzlies’ strength of schedule features teams with a combined 50 percent winning percentage, as well as a double-tank game with the Kings. Every other team jostling for lottery odds has schedules that feature sub-50 percent winning percentages and numerous double-tank games.

Two of the biggest players will be the Mavericks and the aforementioned Magic who both have two double-tank games and play each other on Thursday. Another major force in the tanking scene will be the Detroit Pistons, who are out of the playoff race, but have been on a tear of late – winning 5 straight with Blake Griffin out with an injury. The Piston play the Mavs, Grizzlies and Bulls, all of which may prove to be important in the tanking rankings.

In terms of the Hawks’ lottery positioning, Atlanta fans should be rooting hard against the Kings and Pelicans down the stretch, as those are the only two teams that play both the Grizzlies and the Suns – the only 2 teams ahead of the Hawks for pole position. If the Suns or Grizz could pick up some timely wins, Atlanta’s lottery outlook might look even rosier by the end of the year.

Either way, the final run of the 2017-18 season will be filled with some exciting scoreboard watching, though not in the same way that most fans are used to experiencing.

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And it’s not as if the Hawks don’t have numerous young players to trot out in the name of development, chief among them John Collins (who is having a season worthy of the All-Rookie First Team), Tyler Dorsey (who has impressed after being drafted in the second round) and Taurean Prince (who has looked like the Hawks’ best player at times in the latter stages of this season).

(Strength of schedule info from