Atlanta is still a very good team, 27-20 with their starting center (all-star) out the entire season. They're getting better every year, and they've put in their dues in the playoffs. I think I would take them over Phili or Indy in a 7 game series.
4th-8th for 6 years is fan-fuckingtastic. That's 6 years where with a little magic, some preferrable matchups, and a couple hot shooters, you have a chance at the championship.
The Mavericks look like gods after they win the championship but most had them losing to the Blazers in the first round.