As the NBA playoff race heats up, DraftKings has accepted two five-figure wagers in Colorado on the Atlanta Hawks of all teams.
With six games remaining in the regular season, the Hawks entered Wednesday’s action at 36-30, 1.5 games behind the New York Knicks for the 4-seed in the Eastern Conference. A sports bettor in the Centennial State has wagered $20,000 on the Hawks to win the 2021 NBA championship, at odds of 100/1. If the perennial doormat Hawks improbably defy the odds, the bettor will receive a payout of $2.02 million.
The second wager by the bettor, also for $20,000, is on the Hawks to win the Eastern Conference. The futures wager, with odds of 40/1, brings a potential payout of $820,000. As of Wednesday afternoon, the Hawks and Knicks were the co-sixth choice at DraftKings to represent the East in the NBA Finals.
The Post-Budenholzer Era
The Hawks last made the playoffs in 2017, when Atlanta was eliminated in the first round following a defeat to the Washington Wizards in six games. Weeks later, All-Star forward Paul Millsap left for Denver in free agency triggering a tailspin that lasted three seasons. In 2015, Mike Budenholzer won NBA Coach of the Year honors after leading the Hawks to an Eastern Conference-best 60-22 record. But when the Hawks failed to make the playoffs in 2018, Budenzholzer and the franchise agreed to mutually part ways.
The Hawks’ first three seasons following Millsap’s departure could be characterized as anything but smooth. The Hawks went 73-158 over the three-year span, winning at a clip of 31.6%. Last season, the Hawks finished fifth in the Southeast with a 20-47 record. As a result, the Hawks were one of just eight NBA teams that did not take part in the NBA Bubble in Orlando.
However, the Hawks remained active in the offseason, bolstering their frontcourt with the signings of Bogdan Bogdanovic and Danilo Gallinari. In addition, Atlanta made additions to its backcourt with the signings of Rajon Rondo and Kris Dunn. The Hawks subsequently sent Rondo to the Los Angeles Clippers at the trade deadline for guard Lou Williams and two second-round picks. Williams is in his second stint with the Hawks after spending two seasons with Atlanta from 2012-14.
Riddled by injury, the Hawks’ season hit a nadir in late February when Atlanta’s odds to win the title ballooned to 200/1 at DraftKings. By early March, the Hawks dismissed coach Lloyd Price, replacing him with Nate McMillan. Since then, Atlanta has enjoyed a revival of sorts, notching wins over the Bucks, Lakers, and Warriors, among others.
The Hawks opened April on a tear, winning seven of their first eight games. On April 15, the Hawks futures odds fell to 100/1.
“The Hawks could end up with the fourth seed in the East and have a couple of home court series. Most notably, the team is increasing their in-game seating to 7,000+ fans which may work in their favor come playoffs,” DraftKings Head of Race and Sportsbook Operations Johnny Avello told CoBets. “The team has also responded well to the hiring of McMillan, going 20-11; all positive factors for our sportsbook customers in placing these major bets.”
The Hawks appear headed for a first-round matchup against the Knicks, who are led by All-Star power forward Julius Randle. Atlanta, however, has a strong frontcourt of its own with center Clint Capela and forward John Collins. Capela leads the NBA in rebounding with 14.4 per game and is fourth in blocks with 2.1 per contest. Collins has scored in double figures in nine consecutive games after missing several games last month with an ankle injury.
Atlanta is led in scoring by guard Trae Young, who averages 25.5 ppg. Young also ranks second in the league in assists with 9.4 per game. If the Hawks advance to the second round there is a good chance Atlanta will face the Philadelphia 76ers, the current top seed in the East. The Sixers are led by Joel Embiid, one of the league’s favorites to win 2021 NBA MVP honors.
Currently, the Hawks rank 17th in handle and 14th in bets to win the NBA Championship at DraftKings books nationwide. At the same time, Atlanta is 14th in handle and 13th in bets to win the Eastern Conference.
The two bets rank in the Top 5 of all Colorado wagers made in the Eastern Conference and NBA Championship markets, a DraftKings spokesperson confirmed.