102715 ATLANTA: -- A new Hawks logo is painted on the tunnel wall leading out to the court for the first regular season basketball game "home opener" on Tuesday, Oct. 27, 2015, in Atlanta. Curtis Compton / ccompton@ajc.com
Photo: ccompton@ajc.com/Curtis Compton
Photo: ccompton@ajc.com/Curtis Compton

How much does Hawks’ win at Utah hurt them in draft lottery race?

The Hawks took an injury-depleted roster to Utah last night and pretty much everyone figured it would be another loss for them on the way to the NBA draft lottery. 

The Jazz had won 21 of 23 games since losing at Atlanta on Jan. 22. Oddsmakers tabbed the Hawks as 14-point underdogs. Dennis Schroder was the only active Hawks player who had been a full-time starter for more than one full season. 

Yet Schroder’s career-high 41 points carried the Hawks to the upset W. It was the best victory of the season for the Hawks but fans on Twitter who long ago turned their focus to the draft lottery fretted over the victory.

To which Hawks guard Malcolm Delaney offered a response: 

The Hawks are now 21-50 , tied with the Magic for third-worst in the league behind the Suns (19-53) and Grizzlies (19-51). The Hawks gained two wins in FiveThirtyEight.com’s projections, which now predict that the Hawks will finish 24-58 behind the Suns (21-61) and Grizzlies (21-61). 

If that’s the actual finish, the Hawks would have a 15.6 percent chance of winning the top pick and would select no later than sixth. The top lottery team has a 25 percent chance of securing the top pick and selects no later than fourth and the second-place lottery team has a 19.9 percent chance of winning the top pick and selects no later than fifth. 

It’s going to be a tight race at the bottom of the NBA standings. The Hawks still have games remaining against the Kings (23-49) and Magic. In addition to the Hawks, the Magic also play the Suns, Nets (23-48) and Bulls (24-46). The Suns have a game against the Kings. 

It could turn out that the upset victory at Utah is what prevents the Hawks from securing the top lottery odds. They likely would slide further down the lottery standings If they beat the Kings and/or Magic. 

Sprinkle in another upset victory somewhere among the remaining 11 games and the Hawks’ chances of winning even a top-five pick decline drastically. The team with the fifth-worst record has just an 8.8 percent for the top pick, 9.7 percent chance for the second and 10.7 for the third. The top three picks are determined by lottery, with the remaining 11 lottery teams selecting in inverse order of the final standings. 

That probably wouldn’t be the ideal outcome for the franchise’s long-term plans but, as Delaney reminded Hawks fans, players play to win.

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About the Author

Michael Cunningham
Michael Cunningham
Michael Cunningham has covered the Hawks and other beats for the AJC since 2010.