Within the last week, Hoops Rumors readers have weighed in on the odds of the Cavaliers and the Wizards making the playoffs in the Eastern Conference. About 72% of poll respondents predicted Cleveland would earn a postseason berth, while more than 54% were optimistic about the Wizards’ chances.
Both Cleveland and Washington were lottery teams last year, so if they’re going to participate in the 2014 postseason, a couple teams will need to drop out. The No. 8 Bucks are one candidate, though many of you still expect them to return to the playoffs. The Celtics, having finally started their rebuilding process, are a good bet to relinquish their spot as well.
One Eastern playoff team that has flown under the radar for much of the offseason is the Atlanta Hawks. Atlanta lost a marquee free agent in Josh Smith, but the team was able to add Paul Millsap to join Al Horford in the frontcourt. Millsap arguably isn’t quite the all-around player that Smith is, but he came at a much more affordable price, and could be a bargain for the Hawks.
In addition to the Horford/Millsap pairing, Atlanta will enter the season having brought back point guard Jeff Teague and sharpshooter Kyle Korver. Elton Brand was signed to provide additional frontcourt depth, Louis Williams is expected to return from the ACL injury that sidelined him for most of last season, and youngsters like Dennis Schröder and John Jenkins should provide some upside. On the bench, highly regarded ex-Spurs assistant Mike Budenholzer will take over as head coach, replacing Larry Drew.
So what do you think? Do the Hawks have enough talent to earn a top eight seed in the East, or will the absence of Smith and the improvement of conference rivals mean that Atlanta falls into lottery territory for the first time since 2006/07?