Early projections from ESPN indicate the Atlanta Hawks will be the worst team in the NBA next season.
The new-look Atlanta Hawks aren’t receiving any favorable projections leading up to the 2017-18 season.
With three of the four leading scorers no longer on the roster, as Dwight Howard was traded and Paul Millsap and Tim Hardaway Jr. left in free agency, and each player being replaced by an unproven prospect, the Hawks are expected to struggle, even in the Eastern Conference.
Atlanta is banking on the continued development of point guard Dennis Schroder, along with the selection of power forward John Collins with the 19th overall pick of the 2017 NBA Draft to make the roster competitive next season.
The early analytics for next year don’t agree with the same assessment.
According to projections from Kevin Pelton of ESPN based on Real Plus-Minus (RPM), Atlanta’s projected win total is 27 for next season.
Not only does the projection forecast the Hawks missing the postseason for the first time in 10 years, it is the lowest among all 30 teams in the NBA.
Sacramento, with 27.4 wins, has the second lowest projected win total for next season, while 28.5 from the Bulls is the next lowest amount of victories for an Eastern Conference team.
The estimation from Pelton is similar to the one released by CBS, which pits the Hawks to win 28.2 games next season.
For all of the roster shuffling new general manager Travis Schlenk has done during his brief stint with the organization, Pelton’s projections indicate Atlanta has just two players, Dewayne Dedmon and Ersan Ilyasova, who are better than average in terms of real plus-minus.
The lowered expectations stem from an overall lack of experience, especially in a starter’s role, on the roster.
Atlanta enters the 2017-18 season fielding a roster with an average age of 25.1, an average salary of $5.8 million and 3.3 years of NBA experience. The team ranks in the bottom half in all three categories.
Marco Belinelli, a 31-year-old guard, has the most NBA experience on the roster with 10 years in the NBA, but he has started only 33.5 percent of his total games played.
Dedmon was brought in to compete for minutes with Mike Muscala and Miles Plumlee as the starting center, but in his four seasons, he has yet to spend 1,500 minutes on the court.
Last season, two players logged over 3,000 minutes while a total of 194 players, nearly 40 percent of all players to appear in a game last season, played for at least 1,500 minutes.
Collins is likely going to split time with Ilyasova at the power forward position, giving him an opportunity to become perhaps the offensive focal point in the post.
Taurean Prince, the 12th overall pick of the 2016 NBA Draft, took over the starting small forward position once postseason play began, but struggled during Summer League play.
Prince spent an average of 27.5 minutes per game on the floor this summer, but averaged 13.3 points on 34.7 percent shooting from the field and failed to make significant contributions on either end of the floor.
After being supplanted by Hardaway Jr. in the staring lineup for their playoff series against Washington, Kent Bazemore is expected to assume majority of minutes at the shooting guard position.
Bazemore struggled during his second year as a primary starter in Atlanta, with his averages of 11 points on 40.9 percent shooting from the field, 3.2 rebounds and 1.2 steals per game all dropping from the previous season.
The frequency and accuracy of Bazemore from three-point range declined last year, prompting coach Mike Budenholzer to make a change once postseason play began in an attempt to infuse more scoring power into the lineup.
Atlanta averaged 103.2 points per game last season, the eighth-fewest in the league, and didn’t bring in a single proven scorer to elevate its productivity.
The 104 points per game the team allowed were the 10th fewest in the league, but Howard served as the rim protector and Millsap was the most versatile defender on the roster.
For the Hawks to avoid the massive decrease in victories next season, Schroder is going to have to play at an All-Star level. If not, then Atlanta will likely be able to bring in additional talent by having perhaps the most favorable odds for the 2018 NBA Draft Lottery.
At least if you believe what ESPN projects.