NBA draft lottery watch: Kings pass Hawks in race to bottom

The Hawks set a franchise record for winning margin with a 46-point victory over the Kings (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 the 2018 draft 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 and ties broken by rating:

1. Kings (4-13)

Projected FiveThirtyEight record: 22-60

The Kings moved down (up?) two spots in the lottery rankings largely by penalty (virtue?) of their 46-point loss to the Hawks last week. Sacramento followed up that embarrassing performance with a home victory over the Blazers before losing by big margins at the Blazers and at home to the Nuggets. FiveThirtyEight projects the Kings will finish with an average point differential of -8.8, or 1.7 points worse than the Bulls.

Significant injuries: None.

Up next: vs. Lakers (8-10) tonight, vs. Clippers (5-11) Sat., at Warriors (13-4) Mon., vs. Bucks (8-8) Tues.

2. Bulls (3-12)

Projected FiveThirtyEight record: 23-59

The Bulls held steady in projected record after a home win vs. Charlotte and competitive losses at the Suns and Lakers (they blew a 19-point lead in the second half of the latter). Nikola Mirotic (face) is still out because of injuries sustained in his preseason fight with teammate Bobby Portis. The latest on that drama: Mirotic still isn’t speaking to Portis and wants the Bulls to trade one of them, but the Bulls are insisting that Mirotic come back around the team. Said VP John Paxson: ‘‘They are adults. This is our workplace. They’re both part of the team. I think it’s pretty simple.’’

Significant injuries: Mirotic appears close to returning.

Up next: at Jazz (7-11) tonight, at Warriors (13-4) Fri., vs. Heat (7-9) Sun., vs. Suns (7-11) Tues.

3. Hawks (3-14)

FiveThirtyEight projected record: 23-59

FiveThirtyEight added a couple of wins to the Hawks’ projected record after the big W over the Kings but took them back after the losses to Celtics and Spurs. The Hawks have followed a familiar pattern of being competitive into the second half before fading to losses but the reality is that’s what happens to lots of bad teams. Still, FiveThirtyEight predicts an average point differential of -6.0 for the Hawks, better than three other teams.

Significant injuries: Isaiah Taylor (eye) is out for at least another few days.

 Up next: vs. Clippers (5-11) tonight, vs. Knicks (9-7) Fri, vs. Raptors (11-5) Sat.

4. Mavericks (3-15)

Projected FiveThirtyEight record: 26-56

The Celtics followed up their W at the Hawks on Saturday with a comeback, OT victory at the Mavs on Monday. Among the bad teams, the Mavericks have the best list of victories: vs. Grizzlies, at Wizards and vs. Bucks.

Significant injuries: Dorian Finney-Smith (quad) was injured last week and isn’t expected back anytime soon. Seth Curry (leg) has been out since the preseason.

Up next: at Grizzlies (7-9) tonight, vs. Thunder (7-9) Sat., at Spurs (11-6) Mon.

5. Suns (7-11)

Projected FiveThirtyEight record: 28-54

Bucks guard Eric Bledsoe returns to Phoenix tonight for the first time since he tweeted his way out of town. The player the Suns got in that trade, Greg Monroe, still hasn’t played for them. He may end up traded before that happens. Scott Bordow of azcentral.com reports that the Suns want to sign two-way player Mike James to a standard contract and will move Monroe, Tyson Chandler or Alex Len to make roster space.

Significant injuries: None.

Up Next: vs. Bucks (8-8) tonight, vs. Pelicans (9-8) Fri, at Timberwolves (10-7) Sun., at Bulls (3-12) Tues.

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