Atlanta Hawks: Eastern Conference Power Rankings, Dec. 24

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18. . . Previous: . Boston Celtics. 9. team

The Boston Celtics have hung around the seven to nine range the last month or so in these Eastern Conference Power Rankings. This team is a middle of the pack team in the conference, but are the second-best team in its division, which should help get the Celtics a few more wins on the season.

I have to believe that general manager Danny Ainge will make a blockbuster trade to acquire a star player at some point in 2016. Since Boston has the rights to Brooklyn’s lottery pick, it only makes sense for the Celtics to accentuate their playoff push. Missing out this spring after last year’s appearance won’t go over well in Beantown.

. Previous: . Detroit Pistons. 8. team. 64.

The Detroit Pistons are a great rebounding team and a great outside shooting team. That makes the Pistons a difficult matchup most nights against the better teams in the Association. It’s a strong combination that could prove fruitful for Detroit’s playoff hopes.

However, getting back into the playoffs after an extended absence (five years) is always difficult to do. The Pistons have some great players like Andre Drummond, Reggie Jackson, and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, but does Detroit have the mental fortitude to finish in the top eight in the East this season? At this moment, I think they do.

24. . . Previous: . Chicago Bulls. 7. team

It hasn’t been smooth sailing in the Windy City the last few weeks. The coaching change from Tom Thibodeau to Fred Hoiberg hasn’t exactly brought out the best in this veteran team. Thibodeau may have hurt the team’s energy level during the playoffs for his reluctance to manage minutes, but Hoiberg’s laissez-faire style isn’t working for a team many believed was Cleveland’s biggest challenger in the East.

Derrick Rose is a below average shooter who is too reliant on his declining athleticism. The team is missing wing Mike Dunleavy out on the wing. There are too many cooks in the kitchen in the front court. Chicago may not get out of round one in the 2016 Eastern Conference Playoffs.

Next: Tier II: Eastern Conference Finals Ceiling