NBA Power Rankings Playoff Edition: Brooklyn Nets Come In Near The Bottom

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Apr 15, 2015; Cleveland, OH, USA; Cleveland Cavaliers guard Kyrie Irving (left) and guard Iman Shumpert (4) react after a 113-108 win over the Washington Wizards at Quicken Loans Arena. Mandatory Credit: David Richard-USA TODAY Sports

4. Atlanta Hawks (60-22) 1st Place In Eastern Conference

The Atlanta Hawks cruised through the Eastern Conference in the regular season, earning the first seed and home court advantage throughout. They are a selfless team, and are essentially the Eastern Conference’s Spurs, as their head coach, Mike Budenholzer, learned his trade from no other than Gregg Popovich. It has led to great success in Atlanta, as they are a well oiled machine on both ends of the court.

The only problem for the Hawks is that the ended the season the same way they started it; 5-5. They have had little to play for on the court for a long time, and they looked to lose a little bit of their edge towards the end of the season., punctuated by a loss to the Knicks. Another problem they are dealing with is the health of Paul Millsap, who is dealing with shoulder soreness.

That is what really lands them this low on the list, as they are not the same team without Millsap at full strength. You can plug and play throughout an 82-game season, but in a seven game series if you do not have your big guns ready to go it will be tough sledding. They will handle business against the Nets, but after that things could get difficult without Millsap operating at full strength.

3. Cleveland Cavaliers (53-29) 2nd Place In Eastern Conference

The Cavaliers are the odds on favorites to win the NBA title according to Las Vegas bookkeepers, and it is hard to argue against that. The Cavaliers have been the best team in the NBA for an extended period of time, as they finished the season 34-9 after LeBron James took a two-week sabbatical in the middle of the season. That was exactly what the doctor ordered, as the Cavaliers have been rolling ever since with no signs of slowing down.

As long as James is in the lineup, the Cavaliers will be handful for anyone to handle. With Iman Shumpert and J.R. Smith bolstering the perimeter, and Timofey Mozgov doing the same in the middle, this team improved immensely with trades during the season. The key though will be how the other two of their ‘Big 3,’ Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love, react to their first playoff action.

As we have seen in the past, James cannot do it all by himself. He needs help, and Irving and Love are the two most likely sources to deliver it. Making a conscious effort to get Love involved now could mess up the Cavaliers chemistry, but to bring home the title they will need him to help.

Next: Top 2