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NBA

2014-15 NBA Eastern Conference Preseason Power Rankings

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Updated Eastern Conference Rankings

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The Eastern Conference of the NBA is shaping up to be extensively more competitive than in recent years. The lower level teams are closing the gap with the top tier, and most teams are more well-rounded from top to bottom. The chase for the playoffs will be very exciting with the competition raising the bar even higher this coming season.

15. Orlando Magic

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15. Orlando Magic

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The Orlando Magic are blatantly in the midst of a grand rebuilding scheme. There is some young talent on this squad, but that just means a plethora of inexperience. The Magic may be able to put together the right pieces eventually, but it will be quite a few years before this team will be considered contenders again.

14. Boston Celtics

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14. Boston Celtics

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The Boston Celtics made a good addition this offseason in drafting Marcus Smart, but overall they are the same old Celtics. Don't expect much more from this team than what they gave last season, for there need to be many changes before Boston will become competitive again.

13. Detroit Pistons

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13. Detroit Pistons

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The Detroit Pistons will lose Greg Monroe which is a major part of their team. His absence will make Detroit even worse than last year. There have been basically zero additions to a squad that struggled mightily, and with trade rumors around Josh Smith, changes are on the horizon.

12. Milwaukee Bucks

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12. Milwaukee Bucks

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The Milwaukee Bucks have a new head coach in Jason Kidd. Many critics doubt his abilities, but I give him much of the credit for turning the Brooklyn Nets around. The Bucks have a lot of young talent such as the second pick in the 2014 draft, Jabari Parker, and the young Greek Giannis Antetokounmpo. Larry Sanders also provides a strong presence down low as well as a defensive anchor. This is a team that can be very interesting.

11. Philadelphia 76ers

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11. Philadelphia 76ers

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The Philadelphia 76ers are full of young talent. Rookie of the Year Michael Carter-Williams is developing into a great leader as well as Nerlens Noel. This club is stockpiling assets left and right. Joel Embiid will get healthy and may develop into the greatest player from the 2014 NBA Draft. This squad has a lot of potential.

10. Brooklyn Nets

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10. Brooklyn Nets

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The Brooklyn Nets are quickly aging and will not be able to maintain the caliber of play that led them to the East semifinals this past season. Kevin Garnett and Joe Johnson are certainly not what they used to be. This team will get out hustled by the rest of the league in 2014-15.

9. Miami Heat

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9. Miami Heat

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The loss of LeBron James will of course greatly inhibit the Miami Heat. They were able to retain Chris Bosh, but with a team trying to move on from having one of the greatest players in the history of the game, the Heat will have quite an adjustment period. Dwyane Wade is constantly injured, and he will be relied on even more heavily this coming season. There is a great chance that the injury bug will bite again with much more pressure on him.

8. Washington Wizards

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8. Washington Wizards

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The Washington Wizards had a surprising run this past year, but the loss of Trevor Ariza will have a much greater impact than many predict. He was a solid offensive producer that the Wizards could reliably count on to deliver when called upon. His replacement is the aging Paul Pierce, who is coming off his worst season in the NBA. He is on the decline, and the Wizards will slide down the Eastern Conference but still ease into the playoffs.

7. New York Knicks

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7. New York Knicks

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The uncertainty of Carmelo Anthony's future with the New York Knicks has passed, and now he's more firmly rooted in New York than ever. Tim Hardaway Jr. is improving daily and had a great showing in the 2014 Las Vegas Summer League. Jose Calderon will be an important asset for the Knicks, for he is a solid distributor of the ball and will help orchestrate plays for Anthony.

6. Atlanta Hawks

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6. Atlanta Hawks

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The Atlanta Hawks were third in the Eastern Conference before Al Horford's season-ending injury. Horford will be back as well as some new additions for the bench. Kent Bazemore and veteran Thabo Sefolosha provide this squad with more defense and firepower than last season from the backup roles. Look for Atlanta to be very competitive, for they have the potential to rise up the charts this coming year.

5. Charlotte Hornets

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5. Charlotte Hornets

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The Charlotte Hornets have the makings of a great system. Their player development has made them a playoff team far sooner than most have predicted. Kemba Walker, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and Cody Zeller will continue to improve and gel as a group. Their defensive anchor in Al Jefferson is one of the best big men in the league. They were also able to attract the controversial yet highly productive Lance Stephenson.

4. Indiana Pacers

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4. Indiana Pacers

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The Indiana Pacers had an embarrassing 2014 playoffs. Then they lost SG Lance Stephenson. He had some on-court issues, but he's still a rising star in the league. C.J. Miles is not an adequate replacement for him. If Roy Hibbert continues to play like his atrocious playoff performance, then the Pacers will slide even further down the list and will be struggling to maintain a playoff-worthy record.

3. Toronto Raptors

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3. Toronto Raptors

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The Toronto Raptors will continue to grow in 2014-15. They had major victories in re-signing Kyle Lowry and Patrick Patterson. Their acquisition of Lou Williams by trading John Salmons was an underrated move that will bolster their depth chart by having a solid veteran behind Terrence Ross who can shoot the ball and initiate fast breaks down the court. I expect the Raptors to make a legitimate run at the Eastern Conference title.

2. Cleveland Cavaliers

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2. Cleveland Cavaliers

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LeBron James' return to the Cleveland Cavaliers flipped the sports world on its head. The combination of James, Kyrie Irving and Andrew Wiggins is dangerous to say the least. There are many trade rumors about negotiations to bring star PF Kevin Love to Cleveland. Regardless of if that trade comes to fruition or not, the Cavaliers are one of the front-runners for the Eastern Conference crown.

1. Chicago Bulls

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1. Chicago Bulls

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The highly anticipated return of Derrick Rose to the Chicago Bulls has created much hype around this team, and deservedly so. The additions of Doug McDermott and Pau Gasol have propelled a solid team into one of the favorites to win the NBA Finals. These guys not only boost the defensive side of the ball but bolster their shooting and rebounding abilities. The Bulls will be the favorites unless a dreaded Rose injury takes place again.