Atlanta Hawks: Eastern Conference Power Rankings, Dec. 31

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team. 100. . . Previous: . Indiana Pacers. 6

The Indiana Pacers are certainly a playoff team in 2016 after missing out by a game in 2015. They beat the Atlanta Hawks on Monday night for the first time since Game 7 of the first round of the 2014 NBA Playoffs.

The Pacers feel like a team that could finish anywhere from second to sixth in the East this year. We don’t know how the small ball era in Indy is going to work in the second half, but Paul George is a star and Frank Vogel is a spectacular head coach. However, are the Pacers even the second best team in the Central?

24. . . Previous: . Chicago Bulls. 5. team

The Chicago Bulls are playing .600 ball despite having to go through some adjustments on the sideline with players’ coach Fred Hoiberg. Will Chicago have the necessary tenacity to orchestrate a deep run in the Eastern Conference Playoffs in 2016.

They were at one point considered the Cleveland Cavaliers’ biggest hurdle to getting back to the NBA Finals, but until the Bulls fully gel in the second half, I’m having trouble seeing them get out of the second round. The Bulls have fantastic players, but have they already hit their ceiling with this lineup’s construction?

Previous: . Orlando Magic. 4. team. 38. .

Orlando is vastly exceeding expectations in 2015-216. This is no longer a team that will lose 50 games this season. The Magic have the look of an Eastern Conference Playoff team under new head coach Scott Skiles.

The Magic are a great team at home (12-6), but lousy in the Southeast Division (1-4). Since we don’t know exactly what this team is and isn’t at this point in the season, I think their projected uncertainty of just how good this team could get is interesting. Perhaps the Magic can not only make the playoffs, but could win in the first round as well.

Next: Tier I: NBA Finals Contenders