Atlanta Hawks: Eastern Conference Power Rankings, Dec. 24

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team. 38. . . Previous: . Orlando Magic. 6

Scott Skiles is doing a fantastic job of coaching this young Orlando Magic team. They have a talented young corps that is playing great defense for their new head coach. Nikola Vucevic is playing at an All-Star level at center and former No.2 overall pick Victor Oladipo is thriving in a new sixth man role.

Orlando isn’t going to lose over 50 games again in 2015-16. I think that the Magic end up taking the Milwaukee Bucks spot in the Eastern Conference playoffs. This will be a sneaky good sixth to eighth-seeded team come this spring.

100. . . Previous: . Indiana Pacers. 5. team

The Indiana Pacers have lost three straight and that has put them in seventh place in the Eastern Conference standings. However with Chicago’s issues, I think that the Pacers emerge as the second best team in the Central Division behind the Cleveland Cavaliers.

Paul George is still a top ten player in the Association and provides the fire power needed to orchestrate a deep playoff run from a go-to scorer. Frank Vogel is one of the better coaches in the NBA and if the Pace and Space Pacers can use small ball effectively, they could get back to the Eastern Conference Finals for the third time in four seasons.

4. team. 110. . . Previous: . Miami Heat

While I am not as high on the Miami Heat as some, I find them one of the two best teams in the Southeast with the Atlanta Hawks. The starting lineup for the Heat is impressive, yet we still haven’t seen Goran Dragic thrive at point guard since leaving the Valley of the Sun for South Beach last trade deadline.

Miami is a great defensive team and has players remaining from the LeBron James Era that know what it takes to win in the playoffs. I see the Heat as a team that can play for an Eastern Conference Championship this year, but nothing beyond that.

Next: Tier I: Eastern Conference Championship Contenders