Atlanta Hawks Can Make the Playoffs in a Weak Eastern Conference

John Collins #20 of the Atlanta Hawks (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
John Collins #20 of the Atlanta Hawks (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images) /
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Atlanta Hawks
Kent Bazemore #24 of the Atlanta Hawks (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images) /

Eastern Conference Outlook, Part 2

There’s another drop off here, with the next team probably being Miami. The Heat have too much money going around not to try to make a real push, and their name is still at the top of the Jimmy Butler sweepstakes. They are probably one of the bigger boom-or-bust teams as it’s believable that they could be among the best as well among the worst in the East.

The Pistons seem like they should be in the star-commanded teams like the Bucks and Wizards, but they have such a weak supporting cast. Even if Andre Drummond builds off his All-Star season, Blake Griffin is a liability to get hurt and miss a large chunk of the season at some point, and Reggie Jackson can’t carry the offense by himself. They have a few intriguing young players, but they probably won’t help in any major way this year.

The Nets are an interesting team. They’ve been rebuilding forever yet still seem a year or two away — thanks to the foolish and ill-fated Kevin Garnett/Paul Pierce trade in which Celtics GM Danny Ainge swindled the Nets out of a zillion future draft picks.

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Like the Atlanta Hawks, however, the Nets could overachieve in the win department thanks to weak conference play. D’Angelo Russell is primed for a Most Improved Player Award run, and it’ll be interesting to see how Kenneth Faried does in a new environment. Spencer Dinwiddie was a breakout star last season and is only going to get better. They don’t have a true star, but they’re young, deep and still in the running for Jimmy Butler. Could be a sneaky playoff pick.

The Hornets have been stagnant for years now, and their bad contracts are holding them down from getting any better. Kemba Walker is a true star, with little help from the rest of the roster. Malik Monk is the most likely to improve after a rough rookie season, and this year’s first round pick Miles Bridges put up 15 a game during summer league. Even then, Kemba would have to have a MVP-caliber season to lead this team to the playoffs.