2) The Atlanta Hawks have a legitimate path to a top 5 seed in the Eastern Conference.
This take may not seem bold considering the Hawks were able to do this just two seasons ago. It’s important to consider, though, that this coming year’s Eastern Conference is already set up to be significantly stronger than it was in 2020.
The Cavaliers, Heat, Bucks, Celtics, Raptors, Bulls, Nets, and 76ers all made the play-in or better last year and look poised to challenge the Hawks for a top-5 seeding in the playoffs.
Nonetheless, the Hawks have seen significant improvement over the offseason, especially in the defensive department – their biggest flaw from last season.
With the aging of the Miami Heat’s all-around squad and the loss of important 3-and-D veteran PJ Tucker the Heat may slip down the standings. Add to that the unpredictability of the young Toronto Raptors and that the Chicago Bulls are unlikely to get MVP-level production out of Demar DeRozan for another season. This means that a top 5 seed in the Eastern Conference playoffs should be a real benchmark goal for Atlanta if they have any ambitions to be yearly contenders.