Atlanta Hawks: Eastern Conference Power Rankings, Nov. 26

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3. team. 100. . . Previous: . Indiana Pacers

I’m surprised at how well the small ball era of Indiana Pacers basketball has gone so far this season. Indiana is 2nd in the NBA defensively (98.5), while playing respectable ball in terms of offense (13th in the NBA, 104.7) and pace (16th in the NBA, 96.8).

Paul George is playing at a high level since coming back from his gruesome leg injury. If he can continue to play well at the stretch four and Indiana’s team defense remains top-notch, this team could get back to the Eastern Conference Finals for the third time in four years. Perhaps the third time is the charm?

. . Previous: . Chicago Bulls. 2. team. 24

The Chicago Bulls are still a major contending team in the Eastern Conference, even after bringing in rookie NBA HC Fred Hoiberg. Chicago may seem to scuffle a bit offensively (27th in the NBA, 100.8), but are still sticking to their roots with a defensive identity under The Mayor of…Chicago? (6th in the NBA, 99.4).

This isn’t a glamorous team by any means, but outside of Cleveland, the Chicago Bulls feel like the safest bet at this moment to win the NBA’s Eastern Conference in 2015-16. They also seem like a lock for a Top 4 seed as we enter Thanksgiving.

Next: Atlanta Hawks Rally, but Fall Short Against Wolves, 99-95

team. 156. . . Previous: . Cleveland Cavaliers. 1

While I didn’t expect it due to injuries and too many good big men for too few minutes, the Cleveland Cavaliers have come out of the gate in 2015-16 and have played the best basketball of any team in the Eastern Conference. The offense is on fire with it running primarily through PF Kevin Love, while SF LeBron James relegates himself to facilitator. Cleveland’s offensive efficiency rating is second in the NBA (110.6).

Now that Kevin Love seems to fit in the Cavaliers’ offense, will he be able to co-exist with PG Kyrie Irving when he returns later this season? Irving and Love have illustrated that they have good chemistry with James on the hardwood, but can they work together as a cohesive trio. If they can do that, they’ll be a tough team for Golden State to handle in a rematch of the NBA Finals.