With four days already into the new year, it is never too early to look at the 2016 NBA Playoffs standings. The Atlanta Hawks (21-14) are currently in 5th place in the Eastern Conference. The Atlanta Hawks are sitting in the thick of the conference standings at three games behind the first-place Cleveland Cavaliers.
Nearing the midway point of the season, getting to the All-Star break healthy is key for the teams trying to make a playoff push. With the Cavs at 22-9 and playing good basketball, the other seven are still lurking for the top playoff spots.
Here is a look at the Eastern Conference Standings heading into play on Monday:
|1. Cleveland Cavaliers||22||9||.710||-||W3|
|2. Chicago Bulls||20||12||.625||2.5||W4|
|3. Miami Heat||20||13||.606||3||W2|
|4. Toronto Raptors||21||14||.600||3||L1|
|5. Atlanta Hawks||21||14||.600||3||L1|
|6. Indiana Pacers||19||14||.576||4||W1|
|7. Orlando Magic||19||15||.559||4.5||L2|
|8. Boston Celtics||18||15||.545||5||L2|
|New York Knicks||16||19||.457||8||W1|
The Hawks' Playoff Potential
The Hawks are basically tied for fourth place with the Raptors right now and could be the third best team in the East by playoff time. Coach Bud is still trying to find the best lineup that works night-in and night-out to make a playoff caliber team. In the last ten games, the Hawks are 7-3 and with a rematch on Tuesday night of last night's loss to the Knicks. They could make it eight out of eleven. After the Knicks matchup on Tuesday night, the Hawks go on the road to face the 76ers and host the Bulls on Saturday night, which looks to be an interesting matchup.
LeBron and company look really good in first place, with Kyrie Irving returning the rest of the season looks promising for the Cavs, baring injuries. The Bulls are on the hunt for first place with winning four-in-a-row after Jimmy Butler's 40 point second half on Sunday against the Raptors. It is still way to early, but the first five seem to be lock-ins with the Pacers, Magic, and Celtics looking in. Watch out for the Pistons to make a run for the eighth spot. The East bottom four teams is always hit or miss and any of those teams could get hot before the All-Star break and maintain it going forward.
There are several teams that fit the Who's Not hot category. With the 76ers being the worst team in the East and the league. They can kiss their playoff hopes goodbye and hope for a shot at Ben Simmons. The Nets are out of playoff contentions, but you never know 2016 could be their year. The Bucks are not completely out of it yet, but being ten games out it does not look good.
The defending NBA champion Golden State Warriors remain the team to beat in the entire league, but the San Antonio Spurs are the second best team in the league. With the Warriors and Spurs remaining hot in the West, the other thirteen are still vying for spots. The third-place Thunder are seven and a half games out of first place. The top eight teams in the Western Conference will probably remain that way with the Trailblazers and Kings hanging on.
Here's how the Western Conference is shaping up:
|1. Golden State Warriors||31||2||.939||-||W2|
|2. San Antonio Spurs||29||6||.829||3||W4|
|3. Oklahoma City Thunder||24||10||.706||7.5||W4|
|4. Los Angeles Clippers||22||13||.629||10||W6|
|5. Dallas Mavericks||19||15||.559||12.5||L2|
|6. Memphis Grizzlies||18||17||.514||14||L1|
|7. Utah Jazz||15||17||.469||15.5||W2|
|8. Houston Rockets||16||19||.457||16||L4|
|Portland Trail Blazers||15||21||.417||17.5||W1|
|New Orleans Pelicans||11||22||.333||20||W1|
|Los Angeles Lakers||8||27||.229||24||W3|
The Warriors are still the hottest team in the NBA and do not see them getting worse. The Spurs are gonna continue to keep winning. The main question to watch out for is, If Tim Duncan and the old timers have another Finals run left in the tank? Other than the Warriors and Spurs, the Thunder and Clippers are playing good ball with the Clippers winning 6-in-a-row. Those four alone provide good playoff caliber basketball to watch in mid-June. The Jazz are coming on in the 7th spot and look for the Grizzlies and Mavs to get better in the playoff push.
The Suns pretty much hung the kicks up last week, when their best player Eric Bledsoe went down for the season. The Lakers will try and push to not be the worst team in the West again, but we will probably never see Kobe in the playoffs ever again. The Houston Rockets need to get it together or they risk the chance of not even make the playoffs. Nobody wants to be the team that has to play either the Warriors or the Spurs, and as Houston looks like the team that will have to play one of them. James Harden and Dwight Howard are the only reason they are even in the mix. There other three starters and bench have to pick up the slack.