The 2021-22 NBA season is fast approaching, with less than two months to go until the games resume. The Eastern Conference landscape has changed dramatically this summer, with big-name acquisitions (Kyle Lowry in Miami, Kemba Walker in New York) and looming deals (Ben Simmons in Philly, Pascal Siakam in Toronto) leaving more of questions than of answers.
We don’t know how the ranking will go, but we can make educated predictions based on a number of factors. The following is an alphabetical overview of the ceiling and floor for each team in the Eastern Conference. At the end of the article are the final record predictions.
Before we get to the Sixers, we’ll start with A, for Atlanta…
NBA Eastern Conference standings prediction: Atlanta Hawks
CEILING: seeded among the top 3, participation in the conference finals
GROUND: Play-in tournament, exit of the first round
The Hawks are the deepest team in the NBA. With 12 or 13 rotation-level players and an aspiring superstar at Trae Young, it’s hard not to have high expectations for the season. Atlanta has just played in a conference final and should only get stronger with a full summer of work under Nate McMillan.
That said, the Hawks are hard to pin down. Before McMillan was hired mid-season, Atlanta was at the bottom of the conference, far from conflict. Then, when McMillan was hired, the Hawks’ winning percentage was on track with Philadelphia atop the conference. It’s a pretty big swing, and it cemented itself when Atlanta ousted Philadelphia in the second round.
The question is now simple: Can the Hawks keep that momentum going, or was this a hot streak that will subside in the New Year? It’s hard to say the Hawks will get the No.1 seed, but their pace under Nate McMillan was that of a potential seed. Conversely, McMillan’s teams have a long record in the midfield, and the Hawks still lack the star power of the teams above them in the 2019-20 standings.
Depth is key in the regular season and should help the Hawks keep pace when injuries inevitably strike. Injuries also played a big part in Atlanta’s early season crunch, so it’s generally safe to express confidence in this late-season push. The Hawks are a very good team, perfectly built to complement Trae Young and under the guidance of a coach who clearly resonates with his players.