Hawks still in their sweet spot with promise and picks

Here are five things to know about Hawks guard Trae Young.

At the NBA trade deadline, I noted that the Hawks had found their sweet spot. They were losing enough games to be in line for good draft lottery odds, but not so many that it would create a sour atmosphere for their good young players. I didn't think trades made by other teams would change that.

That's still how it looks nearly a month later. With 18 games to play, the Hawks have the fifth-worst record in the NBA. After the weekend they were four games better than the Bulls and 2½ games behind the Grizzlies, and FiveThirtyEight.com predicts that Hawks will be fifth in the lottery standings at the end.

If that's how it ends up, the Hawks would have a roughly 10.5 percent chance of winning the top pick or Nos. 2-4 and would select no later than ninth. The Hawks could benefit from new lottery odds that don't benefit the worst teams as much as before.

Things also are working out for the Hawks with the top-five protected draft pick the Mavericks owe them.

Dallas had the NBA's eighth-worst record after the weekend (the Grizzlies drilled the Mavs on Saturday, a result that both helped and hurt the Hawks). The Hawks don't want the Mavs to slide much further, thus increasing their chances of winning a top-four pick, but FiveThirtyEight.com predicts Dallas will finish tied for the seventh-worst record.

So, with less than six weeks to go in the season, the Hawks still have a shot at their ideal scenario.

The Hawks have a decent chance to win the lottery or a top-four pick. There's a good chance the pick from the Mavericks will convey within the top 10. And they have Trae Young finishing up a very promising rookie season as part of a young core that includes John Collins and Kevin Huerter (though the recent injury to rookie Omari Spellman was a setback to his development).

Would-be comedians like to make tired jokes about tanking teams such as the Hawks. They are ruining things by winning, haha, get it? And the Hawks did weaken their roster after the trade deadline when they bought out the contract of veteran point guard Jeremy Lin and gave his minutes to rookie Jaylen Adams.

But, in the latest example of their grit, it was Adams who helped the Hawks win at Chicago on Sunday night after Young got ejected on a pair of dubious technical fouls.

The Hawks are not a punchline. They are competitive squad with a pair of potential All-Stars in Young and Collins. They also have a chance to add to that nucleus with two top-10 picks in the June draft.

The Hawks are in a good place near the end of rebuild Season 2.

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