The 2019-20 NBA season is likely to restart at some point within the next two months. Both the Association and the players are working hard behind the scenes to ensure that the ongoing global pandemic does not result in a lost season.
Once the campaign does resume, likely in Orlando, attention will turn from the stop in action to what we’re going to see on the court.
A potential new playoff format could lead to Zion Williamson and the New Orleans Pelicans earning a spot in the postseason. Could their presence impact the Houston Rockets? Back east, the Boston Celtics remain a major threat to the Bucks’ chances.
It’s in this that I give you five bold predictions for when the 2019-20 NBA season eventually returns.
New Orleans entered the suspended portion of the season as the 10th seed in the Western Conference, 3.5 games behind the Memphis Grizzlies. If all things were created equal, star rookie Zion Williamson and Co. wouldn’t have much of a shot to make the playoffs with just 18 games remaining.
All things won’t be equal once the season resumes this summer. There’s a darn good chance that multiple teams will be playing for the final two spots in the playoffs. There’s also a good chance that conference seeding will be thrown out the window. If this is the case, New Orleans could very well earn a postseason bid. It posted a 21-13 record after starting 7-23. Williamson was playing out of his mind before the season was paused. We know the NBA would love to see New Orleans in the playoffs. Why not? It would be an absolute blast.
Most of the talk surrounding the top individual honor has surrounded James Harden and Giannis Antetokounmpo. For good reason. Both were in the midst of absolutely tremendous seasons before play was halted back in March. But there’s a whole heck of a lot more that goes into this.
Facing a ridiculous amount of pressure and dealing with tragedy the NBA has not seen in its modern history, King James has led his team through everything this season. Los Angeles currently boasts the best record in the Western Conference at 49-14. James himself is in the midst of a career-best statistical season that has seen him average 25.7 points, 7.9 rebounds and an NBA-high 10.6 assists. He’s not only been the best player in the Association, James has been the most valuable.
On the other end of the spectrum, Houston has not lived up to expectations despite a brilliant performance from James Harden. Despite general manager Daryl Morey indicating that it’s title or bust for the Rockets, they are not going to come close to winning the title.
Houston sits as the sixth seed in the Western Conference at 40-24. Based on what will likely be a playoff format that is not seeded by conference, the Rockets would currently be the 11th seed in a 16-team postseason. That could set Houston up with a first-round series against a vastly better Denver Nuggets squad. There can’t be too much confidence in Mike D’Antoni and Co. coming out on top in that specific matchup.
LeBron James with four months of rest in between games? Kawhi Leonard having the same amount of time off after being unable to play both ends of back-to-backs earlier in the season. By now, most figure that an all Los Angeles NBA Finals could be in the cards. While that might not be the case if the league goes with its standard conference seeding format, I am here to make another bold prediction.
Regardless, Dallas will outperform each of those two teams once the playoffs start. Luka Doncic is now fully recovered from the ankle troubles head had earlier in what has been an MVP-caliber season. Kristaps Porzingis was getting into his groove before the campaign was suspended. Those two foreign stars will ultimately lead the Mavericks to a shocking NBA Finals appearance over the Lakers and Clippers.
We saw it in the Eastern Conference Finals against the Toronto Raptors last season. While Giannis Antetokounmpo is a transcendent figure, he has struggled in the clutch at times. That series against Toronto saw the Milwaukee Bucks star and reigning NBA MVP shoot just 45% from the field and scored 22.7 points per game. Defenses gang up on him in these situations, and the Bucks struggle to find anyone else to step up.
Enter into the equation a well-balanced Celtics team with young stars Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum stepping up in a big way. Those two are forces in a big way. Add in free-agent signing Kemba Walker and the defensive-minded Marcus Smart, and these Celtics will be big factors once the playoffs start. Don’t be surprised if they take on Dallas for the championship.
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