NBA draft lottery watch: Victory at Cavs doesn’t cost Hawks in race for top pick

The Hawks conquered LeBron James and the Cavs but upset victories by the Kings and Mavs kept them at the bottom of the lottery watch standings. (AP Photo)

The rebuilding Hawks largely will depend on the draft to add talent but they have plenty of competition in the race to the bottom of the NBA standings and thus the best odds in the draft lottery. The stakes are high: After this season, the odds for the team with the worst record winning the lottery decrease dramatically.

Here is a look at the five teams with the worst projected records in the latest FiveThirtyEight.com predictions, starting with the worst team first:

1. Hawks (2-9)

FiveThirtyEight projected record: 23-59

The Hawks earned a hard-fought victory at the Cavs on Sunday but their projected record didn’t change because Cleveland has underachieved. FiveThirtyEight.com predicts that the Cavs will finish with 44 victories, 13 less than the preseason projection. The Hawks are the only team in the league without a home victory (0-4) and have the worst average point differential (-7.5) in the East.

Significant injuries: Reserve big man Mike Muscala has joined a long injury list that still includes Ersan Ilyaova and DeAndre’ Bembry.

Up next: at Pistons (7-3) Fri., at Wizards (5-5) Sat., at Pelicans (6-5) Mon.

2. Kings (2-8)

Projected FiveThirtyEight record: 23-59

The unexpected victory at Cleveland didn’t cost the Hawks in the lottery standings because the Kings had their own upset W with a 17-point comeback against the Kings Tuesday night. That ended a seven-game losing streak for Sacramento. The Kings are tied with the Suns for the NBA’s worst average point differential (-10.0) but the Hawks still have the lower FiveThirtyEight rating.

Significant injuries: None.

Up next: vs. Sixers (6-4) Thurs., at Knicks (6-4) Sat., at Wizards (5-5) Mon.

3. Mavericks (2-10)

Projected FiveThirtyEight record: 26-56

The Mavs joined the Hawks and Kings in earning surprising victories with a dominant effort at the Wizards Tuesday night. In a recent chat at Dallasnews.com, Jean-Jacques Taylor was asked if it is too early for the Mavs to decide to “tank.” His answer: “There’s no decision to make. They can play as hard as they want, and they’re going to have one of the NBA’s worst records. They’re not a good team.”

Significant injuries: Seth Curry (leg) has been out since the preseason.

Up next: vs. Cavaliers (5-6) Sat., at Thunder (4-6) Sun., vs. Spurs (7-4) Tues.

4. Bulls (2-7)

Projected FiveThirtyEight record: 26-56

The Bulls have been more competitive since taking a 31-point loss to the Thunder but they keep losing. Bobby Portis before the first game. Bobby Portis returned from an eight-game suspension for fighting teammate Nikola Mirotic on Tuesday and put up 21 points and 13 rebounds at the Raptors. Portis said he still hasn’t talked to Mirotic, who reportedly wants out of Chicago.

Significant injuries: Mirotic is still out after sustaining a concussion in the fight with Portis.

Up next: vs. Pacers (5-6) Fri., at Spurs (7-4) Sat.

5. Nets (3-5)

Projected FiveThirtyEight record: 27-55

After their 3-2 start the Nets have lost five of their last six by an average margin of

FiveThirtyEight’s projection was not impressed by Brooklyn’s 3-2 start that included a W against the Cavs. Sure enough, the Nets have lost three in a row since then, including a home loss against the Suns last night. Joe Tsai, who recently purchased a 49 percent share of the Nets with an option buy a controlling share later, said: “It’s going to be a long, long project — a long-term project.”

Significant injuries: Jeremy Lin (knee) is out for the season.

Up next: at Blazers (6-5) Fri., at Jazz (5-6) Sat., vs. Celtics (9-2) Tues.

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