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Welcome to the 2014-15 preview for the NBA’s Southeast Division. Check out where the team ranked the Miami Heat, Charlotte Hornets, Washington Wizards, Atlanta Hawks and Orlando Magic this season.

The southeast lost LeBron James, gained some interesting rookies, and looks to see the emergence of the Hornets and Wizards, respectively. Can Paul Pierce help advance the Wiz to the next level? Can Al Horford and company improve on a winning season in Charlotte. How will the Heat recover after losing LeBron James? Can the Magic’s young crop put up wins? Will Jeff Teague take the leap for the Hawks? Have all of your questions answered below.

Be sure to check out our previous divisional previews, and stay tuned for Friday’s look at the Southwest Division.

1st Place – Charlotte Hornets

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Last Season: 43-39

2014-15 Projection: 47-35

Key Additions:Lance Stephenson (IND), Marvin Williams (UTA), Noah Vonleh (Rookie), Brian Roberts (NO)

Key Losses: Josh McRoberts (MIA), Chris Douglas-Roberts (LAC), Luke Ridnour (ORL)

The Charlotte Bobcats are no more. The 10-year reign that only saw the franchise make it to the playoffs only two seasons in that time span has officially ended. With the burying of the Bobcats, the famous Charlotte Hornets name has resurrected. The purple and teal colors are back in an effort to bring a retro re-brand to the forefront of NBA in Charlotte. Owner Michael Jordan and coach Steve Clifford will look to reflect the future Hornets in comparison to the successful teams in the 90’s. The organization is in fact the right direction to make a splash in the Eastern Conference and drive to a deep postseason run.

The offseason signing of free agent Lance Stephenson, who played for the Indiana Pacers last season, gives the Hornets an immediate step-up at the shooting guard position. The large issue that could plague Stephenson to play at his best, who averaged 13.8 points per game with the Pacers the previous season, is his questionable locker room attitude. Other than that, the young SG is bound to have a substantial breakthrough 1st season with Charlotte. Signing FA Marvin Williams to a multi-year deal provides this team with reliability at power forward. Team captains Kemba Walker and Al Jefferson are solid picks for the point guard and center positions, respectively. Jefferson proved his multi-year deal with Charlotte last season wasn’t a fluke as he received All-NBA Third Team honors. Michael Kidd-Gilchrist could turn some heads with a surprising turnaround season with a ton of talent not fully exposed to the highest level.

The loss of Josh McRoberts to Miami hurts the flowing pattern of shooting and passing across the court and setting up Jefferson for bigger situations.

Things to look closely at for the Hornets this upcoming season: Consistent offensive efficiency (third-best in the league last season), a condensed points per possession average, and the possibility of bench player Cody Zeller out to prove his worthiness to Charlotte. If all goes well for Charlotte in their first season back as the Hornets, they have potential to be a top-5 Eastern Conference and possibly take the Southeast Division crown for a likely home court advantage in the playoffs. (Kevin Smith)

2nd Place – Washington Wizards

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Last Season: 44-38

2014-15 Projection: 46-36

Key Additions: Paul Pierce (BKN), Kris Humphries (BOS), DeJaun Blair (DAL)

Key Losses: Trevor Ariza (HOU), Trevor Booker (UTA)

Last season was a huge step in the right direction for the Wizards. Led by one of the best backcourts in the Association and a veteran frontcourt, they are staking their claim as a top four team in the East.

The loss of Trevor Ariza and Trevor Booker was significant, but the Wizards were able to re-sign Marcin Gortat, and the addition of Paul Pierce, Kris Humphries and DeJaun Blair gives them a balance of veteran leadership and young talent.

Second year player and former no. 3 overall pick Otto Porter Jr. could be a major factor in the Wizards’ season. After struggling in his first year, which could be attributed to injuries, the former no. 3 overall pick could see a significant increase in opportunity. The Wizards can be penciled in for a playoff birth, and could realistically finish as the 3 seed in the East.

Bradley Beal’s injury will set them back for the first part of the season, but he will be back and healthy for the bulk of the season. (Mark Pace)

3rd Place – Miami Heat

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Last Season: 54-28

2014-15 Projection: 45-37

Key Additions: Luol Deng, Shannon Brown, Danny Granger, Josh McRoberts, Shabazz Napier

Key Losses: LeBron James (CLE), Ray Allen (FA), Shane Battier (Retired), Michael Beasley (CBA)

The Heat will look drastically different, and blah, blah, blah. I can go on all day about how losing LeBron James will negatively impact ANY team out there, but I’ll spare you all the constant grind of talking about LeBron James.

The Heat still have a ton of talent. Dwyane Wade may be nearly done, but he’s still better than most players hanging around the association. Chris Bosh is still in town, after re-upping on a monster $100+ million deal. Bosh is such an undervalued player in this league. Look for Bosh to resemble the his former, Raptors’ self this season, as Miami will need a true cornerstone player, and I’m just not sure Wade has that left in him for an entire season.

I also look to the additions to make a big splash. Look to guys like Luol Deng, Danny Granger, rookie Shabazz Napier, Shannon Brown and Josh McRoberts to give the Heat enough of a push to finish as a playoff seed in the east. (Andy Flint)

4th Place – Atlanta Hawks

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Last Season: 38-44

2014-15 Projection: 43-39

Key Additions: Adeian Payne (Rookie), Thabo Sefalosha (OKC)

Key Losses: Louis Williams (TOR)

The Hawks didn’t make any moves to really improve their roster, but bringing in the stretch capabilities of rookie, Adreian Payne, will bolster their rotation. The development of Jeff Teague should also continue to make this team harder to beat, while Al Horford’s return from injury is sure to warrant the Hawks additional wins in 2014-15.

All in all, their rotation players look solid on paper. We know what we’ll get from guys like Paul Millsap, Kyle Korver, Thabo Sefalosha, Jeff Teague and Al Horford. It’s the young players who could make the difference. Guys like Payne and Dennis Schroder should see opportunity to play quality minutes this season. Whether or not they put this opportunity to good use is up in the air.

All in all, I believe Atlanta is a good team, who made a good run at the Pacers in the first round, last season. Having Al Horford to anchor their defense for an entire season is what makes this team tick. They just need to keep the big fella healthy. (Andy Flint)

5th Place – Orlando Magic

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Last Season: 23-59

2014-15 Projection: 32-50

Key Additions: Elfrid Payton (Rookie), Aaron Gordon (Rookie), Channing Frye (PHX), Devyn Marble (Rookie), Evan Fournier (Den), Luke Ridnour (CHA)

Key Losses: Arron Afflalo (Den), Jason Maxiell (CHA)

Look, losing Arron Afflalo seems like dark spot in what is already shaping up to be another tough season for the Magic and it’s fans, but the key here is patience, much as it’s been the last two seasons. The development of Victor Oladipo, Tobias Harris, Nikola Vucevic, Maurice Harkless, Elfrid Payton and Aaron Gordon is crucial to this young team.

The Magic may have struck gold in the 2014 NBA Draft, acquiring the young, freak athlete, Aaron Gordon, the under-the-radar point guard, Elfrid Payton, and even the surprising Devyn Marble, who Orlando got lucky with in the second round.

The Magic have the fourth youngest roster in the league, with an average age of 24.6. Take into consideration that newcomers, Ben Gordon, and Channing Frye boost their average age considerably, as do both Wllie Green and Luke Ridnour, being as all four players are in their 30’s. But every other player on the Magic’ roster is under the age of 25. In fact, Aaron Gordon, Elfrid Payton, Nikola Vucevic, Victor Oladipo, Evan Fournier, Andrew Nicholson, Devyn Marble, Maurice Harkless, and Tobias Harris all combine for an average age of 21.5. These are the guys who the Magic will be banking on, long term, which is why I preach patience with this young roster.

The sky is the limit! (Andy Flint)

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