Since February 4th the Atlanta Hawks have decided to be consistent in their efforts, be it winning or losing, for better or for worse. These streaks include losing 14 of 15 with an 8 game losing stretch, followed by a 5 game win streak and now they’re currently in the midst of a 6 game losing effort. It’s kind of impressive in its own way but it’s mainly odd and mostly disconcerting.
Since the beginning of February the Hawks have won only two games against opponents with winning records, the Toronto Raptors and Minnesota Timberwolves. Clearly this team has been out of sorts recently and the losing can’t be blamed entirely on lack of play. This is a team whose season has been blown to bits by injuries.
When Al Horford went down the team was in 3rd place with a 16-13 record. Even after the injury they managed to stay afloat, going 9-8 over their next 17. However, since then, the injuries have been too much to overcome leading to the current record of 31-41. This past week it’s been Kyle Korver out with back spasms and Pero Antic tepidly returning from another ankle injury.
Initially when Horford went down and the team was managing to stay in contention while the rest of the East was busy being terrible it seemed like the best route would be to continue to push for the playoffs.
Now? Making the playoffs may not be the choice.
At this point it looks like if the Hawks make the playoffs they’ll either be playing the Indiana Pacers or the Miami Heat. This means a quick first round exit for the franchise and probably a sweep. Making the 6th seed is not going to happen as the Hawks are 7 games back from Washington and even making the 7th seed would be improbable.
Not making the playoffs might actually be the best option for the Hawks at this point. The Hawks own the worse pick between them and Brooklyn, which will end up being the Hawks, so it is to their pick benefit to lose at this point. They are currently 1.5 games ahead of New York and 2.5 games ahead of Cleveland, both are teams that have a mandate to make the playoffs and so they’ll both have a reason to try to win down the stretch. Potentially if the Hawks were to finish after these two they could be looking at possibly getting the 9th pick in the draft with a shot at one of the top 3. The highest they could finish would probably be the 13th pick, which would still give them a shot at one of the top 3 but with reduced odds.
The advantage of making the playoffs will be pride and two more home games for revenue. But, if the franchise is ok with not making the playoffs, it could potentially be in play for a decent pick in one of the best drafts in years. Obviously no team should ever intentionally lose games but if Kyle Korver or Pero Antic isn’t feeling 100%, what would it hurt to sit them out at this point? Now would also be a great time to give more run to the rookies, Dennis Schroeder and Mike Muscala, for experience and to see what they potentially offer the team.