2012 NBA standings: Hawks right outside the top 8

Ezra Shaw

An exceedingly weak division could give Atlanta a leg up in the Eastern Conference playoff race as the year goes on.

Perhaps the biggest bright spot for Hawks fans this season comes from the schedule: Atlanta will get to play Charlotte, Washington and Orlando a combined 12 times.

While the Southeast Division has the defending NBA champion Heat, the other four teams are in various states of disrepair.

The Hawks took a mild step back this off-season by shedding Joe Johnson's contract, but that's nothing compared to the rebuilding jobs going on in the rest of the division.

Washington, currently without John Wall and Nene, is the NBA's sole remaining winless team at 0-7. And even when they come back, neither Wall nor Nene is a great perimeter shooter, which is the biggest problem with the Wizards right now.

Orlando and Charlotte, meanwhile, are both being run by disciples of Oklahoma City's Sam Presti, which means they quickly initiated slash-and-burn rebuilding jobs when they took over in the last year.

As a result, the Bobcats, while they are off to a surprising 4-3 start, and the Magic, who are currently 2-5, are likely to be in the running for Top 5 picks, which could mean a lot of chances for a mediocre Atlanta team to bank wins and get themselves in playoff contention.

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