Atlanta Hawks: Eastern Conference Power Rankings, Dec. 31

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12. team. 27. . . Previous: . New York Knicks

While the New York Knicks are certainly going to surpass their win total of 17 from last year, they will need to do a better job of playing the Central and Southeast Divisions. Though the Knicks are 4-1 against the Atlantic, they only boast a 9-13 Eastern Conference record.

There are noticeable improvements with this basketball team when compared to the monstrosity that played at Madison Square Garden last year. Fans can cheer their hearts out for Carmelo Anthony and Kristaps Porzingis, but unless the Knicks can become a more mature team in 2016, they won’t sniff the playoffs this spring.

142. . . Previous: . Washington Wizards. 11. team

Center Marcin Gortat won Eastern Conference Player of the Week, helping the Washington Wizards get back to .500 at 14-14. The Wizards then proceeded to lose their next two basketball games.

John Wall can’t carry this team alone. While Gortat’s strong play of late will go a long way in keeping the Wizards competitive in 2016, Washington still feels like the worst of the five teams in the Southeast Division this year: top to bottom the most competitive division in the NBA entering 2016.

Previous: . Detroit Pistons. 10. team. 64. .

The Detroit Pistons have lost three straight to find themselves a game out of a playoff spot as the calendar turns to 2016. Head coach/general manager Stan Van Gundy has some great pieces to build a contender around in Andre Drummond, Reggie Jackson, and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, among others.

For the Pistons, it is all about consistency. Their lack thereof at times will keep in fourth place in the tough central division. While both the Central and the Southeast have four teams apiece realistically vying for playoff spots, all eight can’t make it as the Atlantic still has Toronto and Boston in the mix. Detroit at this point is on the outside looking in.

Next: Tier III: Likely First Round Exit