NBA Charlotte Hornets

Charlotte Hornets Could Be Eastern Conference’s Dark Horse Next Season

Noah Vonleh, Charlotte Hornets

Getty Images

I remember the days when the Charlotte Hornets were viable contenders in the East. The old Charlotte Coliseum was a tough place to play, and greats like Alonzo Mourning, Larry Johnson and Glen Rice were carrying the Hornets to the playoffs on a yearly basis.

But then came the infamous move to New Orleans, and the expansion team that brought the NBA back to North Carolina’s biggest city as the Bobcats. The former team known as the Bobcats almost ruined NBA basketball in a state that treats basketball like Texas treats football — like a religion.

But now, the new incarnation of the Hornets is poised to bring that NBA love back to the Queen City, especially now that the team looks to be a legitimate threat in the East not just in 2014-15, but for years to come. Kemba Walker and Al Jefferson are the cornerstones of the team. Walker really developed into a near top-tier point guard last season, and Jefferson provided a consistent inside scoring threat.

One of the main weakness for the Hornets last season was scoring the ball, and Michael Jordan did his best to rectify that problem, while at the same time, keeping his top-tier defense in check. Lance Stephenson was a great pick-up for the Hornets. His ball handling and playmaking ability will relieve some of the pressure off of Walker, and give Charlotte a third offensive threat.

And let’s not forget the rookies. Noah Vonleh was one of the most underrated picks in the 2014 NBA Draft, and he will make an immediate impact. The same goes for P.J. Hairston, who is a deadly outside shooter, and if he can keep his behavior in check, could rise to become one of the league’s best sixth men.

The Hornets are definitely shedding the loser image that plagued their former incarnation for many years. It is wonderful to see not only Charlotte, but the Carolinas embrace the NBA again. With the Indiana Pacers in taters, and the Miami Heat empire collapsing, the Hornets have a very real chance at winning the Southeast Conference, and earning a top three seed in the playoffs.

The Hive is alive again in Charlotte.

Kareem Gantt covers the NBA for Rant Sports. For more from this author, ‘follow’ him on Twitter, ‘like’ him on Facebook, and ‘add’ him to your network on Google