Atlanta Hawks: Eastern Conference Power Rankings, Dec. 17

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Charlotte Hornets. 6. team. 170. . . Previous:

After a bad year in Portland in 2014-15, the Nicolas Batum trade by the Charlotte Hornets has been arguably the best front office move made by any team in the East this season. Batum and the Hornets look like a playoff team in 2015-16.

The Hornets can hang with anybody in the East and The Hive is becoming a difficult place for opponents to play in on the road. Their improved offense and always good defense has made the club into a well-rounded bunch. It’s a good group of talent head coach Steve Clifford has with him in the Queen City.

. Previous: . Toronto Raptors. 5. team. 81.

Toronto remains the best team in the Atlantic Division and that gives them an edge many teams don’t have. It should have the Raptors in contention for a Top 4 seed again in the East. I doubt that the The North squander another first round home court advantage in 2016.

This team like so many in the East have an ebb and flow feel to them, but at the end of the day I don’t see how this team doesn’t win the division for the third straight season and misses the playoffs entirely. Toronto has it issues, but are a sure-fired playoff team in 2016.

100. . . Previous: . Indiana Pacers. 4. team

Indiana should at least make it to the Eastern Conference Semifinals. Paul George is the reigning Player of the Month and the Pacers look like a team that should contend for a trip to the NBA Finals. Where I think they could have some issues is that they play in the toughest division in the NBA in the Central.

I don’t think that the Pacers are better than Cleveland and depending on how the week goes, are either second or third with Chicago. Finishing third in the Central won’t hurt them in playoff seeding, but it may take away home court advantage in the first round should an Atlantic or Southeast team get hot as the season draws to a close.

Next: Tier I: Eastern Conference Title Contenders