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

Victory over Magic doesn’t hurt Hawks in draft lottery projection

The Hawks beat the Magic on Sunday, but that victory didn’t hurt them in draft lottery race as far as FiveThirtyEight.com’s projections are concerned.

FiveThirtyEight’s model predicts the Hawks (22-55) will win one of their final five game to finish with a 23-59 record, third-worst in the league. That’s the same projected record for the Hawks before they beat the Magic (22-54) at Philips Arena. 

Record Games behind* Projected record+
Suns 19-59 0 21-61
Grizzlies 21-56 2.5 21-61
Hawks 22-55 3.5 23-59
Magic 22-54 4.0 26-56
Mavericks 23-54 4.5 25-57
Kings 25-53 6.0 26-56
Nets 25-52 6.5 26-56
Bulls 26-51 7.5 27-55

*for worst record

+According to FiveThirtyEight.com

If the Hawks finish with the third-worst record they will have about a 15 percent chance to win the lottery, compared to 25 percent for the team with the worst record and 20 percent for second-worst (assuming no ties). With the third-worst record, the Hawks would have a roughly 47 percent chance at a top three pick (again assuming no ties). 

After the first three picks are determined, the remaining selections are ordered by reverse order of record. That means if the Hawks finish with the third-worst record they would pick no later than sixth overall. 

The Hawks likely will be underdogs in all their remaining games: at Heat Tuesday, vs. Heat Wednesday, at Wizards Friday, at Celtics Sunday and vs. Philadelphia on April 10. All those teams have either clinched a playoff berth in the Eastern Conference or are still alive for one. But the variable is whether those teams will send out their regular lineups when they play the Hawks because playoff implications still will be at stake.

The Heat (41-36) will be going all out to win against the Hawks. Miami still is trying to clinch a playoff spot and can improve its current position of sixth. The Wizards (42-35) have clinched but presumably prefers to stay ahead of the Heat for the sixth seed and thus avoid a first-round matchup against the Raptors (55-21) or Celtics (53-23). (The Cavaliers are the betting favorite to win the East because of LeBron James but the Raps and Celtics have been better teams all season.) 

The Celtics (53-23) beat the Raptors (55-21) on Saturday and still have a shot at the top seed. Boston plays at Milwaukee (41-36) on Tuesday before a rematch with the Raptors on Wednesday in Toronto. It’s plausible that they will need a victory against the Hawks at the end of the week to remain in contention for the No. 1 seed or clinch it. 

The Sixers (46-30) have clinched a playoff berth and currently are holding off the Pacers (46-31) for home-court advantage in the first round. They might still be doing so when they host the Hawks, their penultimate game before finishing the regular season against the Bucks

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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.