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ESPN projects the Hornets will win 44 games next season

ESPN's projection has Charlotte finishing fifth in the Eastern Conference.

NBA: Charlotte Hornets at Orlando Magic Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

ESPN came out with their 2017-18 season win and standing projections on Thursday and the Charlotte Hornets should be happy with their projection––they’re expected to win 44.1 games and finish fifth in the Eastern Conference.

According to the projections, the Hornets would play the fourth-seeded Milwaukee Bucks in the first round of the playoffs. Here is ESPN’s reasoning:

The Hornets are primed to return to the playoffs after a one-year absence. Despite going 36-46 a year ago, Charlotte outscored opponents by 0.2 points per game, which typically would translate to a 41-41 record. The Hornets also went 3-17 in the 20 games starting center Cody Zeller missed. Adding Dwight Howard should help Charlotte deal with any Zeller absences this season.

So, how did ESPN come up with these projections?

As in past seasons, I've put together projected playing time based on a formula that estimates games missed by taking into account the number missed over the past three seasons (adjusted for any offseason injuries/suspensions) and my own guesses at how rotations will shake out.

Most veteran players are rated using the multiyear, predictive version of RPM, adjusted for the typical aging curve. Newcomers to the league and players who played too little for an RPM rating are rated using their projected offensive and defensive ratings from my SCHOENE projection system, which incorporates translated performance in the NCAA and professional leagues besides the NBA.

The Hornets added to an already strong core and with how shallow the Eastern Conference tends to be, it is easy to see the Hornets return to the playoffs this season. After all, the Hornets have not had a player of Dwight Howard’s status manning the middle in a long, long time. No offense, Al Jefferson.

Let’s get this season started already.