Kevin Pelton of ESPN Insider this week graded the 30 NBA teams’ offseasons: He assigned the Atlanta Hawks a D-plus, which wasn’t even the worst in the East. (The Bulls and Pacers and Knicks got a big fat F, the latter in no small part for lavishing $71 million on ex-Hawk Tim Hardaway Jr.) He then projected every team’s record for the season. This time the Hawks were the league’s worst — at 27.0 wins, just down from the Kings’ 27.4.
And here’s where I say, “Good.” Sort of.
Not good in the sense that going 27-55 is, you know, excellent. But good in that the Hawks are tanking. If you’re tanking, the idea, duh, is not to win. The more you lose, the better your chances of getting the No. 1 pick in next year’s draft. If you get the No. 1 pick, you might land the superstar the Hawks have conspicuously lacked. If you have a superstar, you’ve got the beginnings of a chance not just to be so-so, which the Hawks had become, but really good and maybe even great.
Bradley’s Rule (also Mike Ehrmantraut’s): No half-measures. If you’re going to tank, do the Full Monty. Rip off that Band-aid. And here I’ll stop with the cliche-y imagery.
Caveat: I’m not sure, with the Knicks and Bulls looking awful and the Nets still reeling from trading away all their lottery picks and the Magic no great shakes, the Hawks will even be the fourth-worst team in the East, and I have to admit the Mike Budenholzer Effect troubles me. He’s a good enough coach that he might bleed 35 wins out of this unassuming-to-say-the-least roster, which would, in a pretzel-logic way, be grounds for firing. If you’re tanking, tank.
Then I check ESPN’s projected Hawks starting five, and I think, “Maybe this is beyond even bright Bud.” Here’s your five: Dennis Schroder, Taurean Prince, Kent Bazemore, Dewayne Dedmon and Ersan Ilyasova. The latter three are essentially backups; the first two are young. That’s a really bad lineup. Which is, I say again, the idea. If the Hawks land Michael Porter next June, nobody will care how awful the 2017-2018 season was. Because — let’s face it — almost nobody’s going to be watching.