The NBA and 22 of its teams are heading to Orlando soon...but not every player from those teams will be joining them. As part of the deal between the league and the players' association, if a player is uncomfortable with participating — whether it's because of the coronavirus, social justice movements, injury or any reason — he will not be penalized or disciplined by the league or the teams. A handful of players have opted out, but only a few of them could impact the title race. We'll focus on those players first and the less significant absences toward the end.
Of the players who were active in 2020, Oladipo is the highest-profile player to opt out of the bubble...or at least opt out of playing in the bubble. As he recently explained, Oladipo is planning on traveling with the Pacers to Orlando but will only be rehabbing, not playing. Oladipo, who appeared in 13 games this season (averaging a rusty 13.8 ppg.), was coming off a brutal knee injury and wants to make sure that he's completely healthy and confident in his body as he enters a free agent season in 2020-21.
"Daddy's always happy!" Hayward's wife is due to give birth to the couple's fourth child in September, and he will leave the bubble to be with his wife should the Celtics still be in the playoffs at that time. (Eastern Conference Finals begin in mid-September.) If Hayward leaves, it's unclear how long he'd be away and also whether he'd be able to reenter the bubble (and sufficiently quarantine) in time for the NBA Finals should Boston make it. While the Celtics have plenty of good players who are more than able to pick up the slack, it'd be quite an accomplishment if the Cs can win the whole damn thing without a player like Hayward (17.3 ppg., 6.5 rpg., 4.1 apg. in 45 games this season).
Though his raw numbers and advanced statistics aren't impressive, Bradley still played a key role for the Lakers as their defensive tone-setter. Bradley's ability to pressure ball handlers and pester opposing point guards is something that maybe only Alex Caruso and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope can replicate for the Lakers. Losing that depth could prove costly, considering most teams in the Western Conference have at least an above-average point guard.
It's still unclear whether Howard will travel with the Lakers to Orlando, but most indications point to him participating. Howard has been dealing with the unexpected death of the mother of one of his children as well as balancing his desire to continue to help with social justice. Because the Lakers expect him to travel with the team, they are not signing an additional replacement player. Thus, it'd be a significant loss to the Lake Show without his consistent two-way play off the bench in Orlando (7.5 ppg., 7.4 rpg., 1.2 bpg., 73.2 percent from the field).
Bogdanović was the first notable player to officially excuse himself from the Orlando bubble, as he and the Jazz decided that it was best for him to get surgery on his lingering wrist injury and prepare for next season. While his absence is certainly excusable, Bogdanović will be missed by the Jazz — especially, the 20.2 points per game he brought to the table on a nightly basis this past season. Without Bogdanović, the Jazz will need players like Mike Conley and Joe Ingles, both of whom struggled at various points this season, to step up their games for the Jazz to have any chance to advance out of the first round of the playoffs.
Dinwiddie, who had a career year this season — averaging 20.6 ppg. and 6.8 apg. — recently announced that he tested positive for coronavirus. He might play in the bubble; he might not. He also might put "Trillion" in place of his last name on the back of his jersey to signify the United States debt. The latter of those uncertainties is far more interesting than anything Nets-related until Kevin Durant suits up for Brooklyn next season.
A few months ago, Kyrie elected to get season-ending shoulder surgery. A few weeks ago, Irving, the vice president of the NBA Players Association, sat through a meeting where the NBA and NBA Players Association ratified the plan to restart its season in Orlando, asking only questions about whether he'd be able to travel with the team. A week later, after being told "no," Irving tried to undermine the league's return by rallying a group of players who were indifferent or against the return. Kyrie's been pretty quiet this week, but who knows what next week, much less next month holds in store for the mercurial second coming of Stephon Marbury.
Aldridge (shoulder surgery) will miss the remainder of the season and playoffs for the Spurs. In any of the past 22 years, this would have been fairly big news, but the news barely made a peep because the Spurs probably won't be making the playoffs (4.0 games back with only eight games to go). It was another very solid season for LMA (18.9 ppg., 7.4 rpg.), but the reality is that the Spurs won't be making the playoffs anytime soon if Aldridge remains the focal point of the offense.
Bertans, or as we'll all be calling him after he gets overpaid this summer, "Ryan Anderson 2.0," was an obvious candidate to opt out of the bubble as soon as the NBA announced that 22 teams would be part of its restart. For one, Bertans' team, the Wizards, don't really belong in the bubble. as they're easily the worst team and have very low odds of making the playoffs. Second, Bertans, who apparently has a history of ACL injuries, doesn't want to jeopardize the huge payday that most anticipate is in his future for the 2020-21 offseason. And who can blame him? The Latvian sharpshooter had a career year this season, averaging 15.4 ppg. on 43-42-85 shooting splits, and his shooting from power forward position will be coveted by any team with cap room this summer including Washington.
While he isn't the most important player to opt out of the bubble, Oubre is one of the most talented. The 24-year-old had a career year, averaging 18.7 points and 6.4 rebounds per game with 45-35-78 shooting splits. However, Oubre had injured his knee shortly before the shutdown in March and opted to pass on Orlando to continue to his rehab. This was not surprising in the least bit, as Phoenix is a full six games behind the eighth-place Grizzlies and probably shouldn't even be going to the bubble if we're being honest.
Jordan is "Exhibit A" of why it pays to be a good dude. Jordan has somewhat mailed-in the past two seasons (9.8 ppg., 11.7 rpg., 1.0 bpg. over past two seasons vs 11.9 ppg., 14.2 rpg., 1.9 bpg. the previous five seasons) yet managed to land himself a four-year, $40M deal this past offseason and a spot in the proverbial Big 3 with the Nets (despite being a worse player and a much worse long-term prospect than the team's incumbent center, Jarrett Allen). With most of the Nets sitting out of Orlando, Jordan was probably looking for a way out of playing in the bubble long before he found out he was positive for COVID-19.
Like Gordon Hayward, Garrett Temple (10.3 ppg.) will leave the bubble to be with his wife in mid-September should the Nets miraculously make the conference finals. They won't, so no need to dive too far down that rabbit hole.
The concept of losing Ariza for Orlando is more damaging than actually losing Ariza for Orlando. In theory, Ariza is a perfect three-and-D wing who has won a championship and competed in a plethora of big games throughout his career. In reality, that version of Ariza died in Game 7 of the 2018 Western Conference Finals where he went 0-12 and had zero points in nearly 42 minutes in a loss to the Warriors. Since then, he's been on four teams, three of which were more than happy to ship him elsewhere after less than a season. For Portland, losing Ariza, who recently turned 36, does little to impact the Blazers' already poor odds of making the playoffs, let alone winning a series.
Entering the 2019-20 season, Cauley-Stein was a player who some thought could thrive in the Warriors' spread-out, fast-paced style of play. His length and athleticism should have made him a perfect role man for Steph Curry and a versatile defender anchoring the defense alongside Draymond Green. Unfortunately, Curry's injury sent the Warriors into tank mode almost immediately, and the WCS breakout train lost its steam. He ended up being traded to the Mavericks but had yet to make a big impact in his 13 games, averaging 5.2 points and 4.6 rebounds per game. WCS will miss the bubble for the birth of his child.
Poor Cousins is coming off a number of serious injuries (Achilles, quad, ACL) and actually hadn't appeared in a game this season (although he was a member of the Lakers until shortly after the trade deadline), yet teams were still interested in his services. Though it's doubtful that Cousins could have made a huge impact on the title race, he could have provided any team with some high-upside backup center minutes given his ability to score from the paint, shoot from three and do some playmaking. Hopefully, Boogie is healthy and ready to play from the jump in the 2020-21 season.
Wait, Wilson Chandler is still in the league? Yes, but barely. Chandler's uninspiring 2019-20 season began with a nice 25-game PED suspension. The 33-year-old followed that up with 35 uneventful games where he averaged 5.9 points and 4.1 rebounds in 21 minutes per game for the Brooklyn
Jack****s - er, I mean, that team in Brooklyn that Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant supposedly play for. The odds of the Nets upsetting the two seed in the East without Irving or Durant are astronomically low, and the odds of Chandler making a difference in a playoff series at this stage of his career are even lower. If a player sits out of the NBA restart but it wouldn't have made a difference anyway, does that player even exist? Riddle me that, Kyrie!
Once an ideal three-and-D wing, Courtney Lee is no longer a relevant NBA player. In fact, if he wasn't on such a tradable contract the past few seasons, he probably wouldn't be in the league. He's appeared in only 58 games the past two seasons and made little-to-no statistical impact (4.2 ppg. in 13.3 mpg.). He'll miss the bubble due to a calf injury that he suffered during the league's stoppage. Not sure how he hurt his calf while quarantining, but it wasn't like his presence in the bubble was going to change the Mavericks' outlook one way or the other...that'll be up to Luka Doncic and Kristaps Porzingis.
Sefolosha is similar to Trevor Ariza in that we remember him being a good player years ago and we just assume he is still that same good player because...he looks the same. The Rockets actually probably improve by replacing Sefolosha with Luc Mbah a Moute, the former of whom is four years older and played only 10.6 minutes per game in 41 games for Houston. Sefolosha, who unfairly had his career somewhat sidetracked from an injury suffered in an ugly case of police brutality, is sitting out of the bubble for the safety of his family and to continue social justice efforts.
Who? For those who have never heard of Claxton, he's a raw rookie big man out of Georgia who appeared in 15 games for the Nets this year, averaging 4.4 points and 2.9 boards a game. While Claxton's injury has zero impact on the Nets' chances in the bubble, he'll miss out on an excellent opportunity to improve his game and get some valuable playoff reps.
Durant was probably never going to play in the bubble, but there was a moment a month or two ago when there was some speculation that both Kyrie Irving and Durant might return. Obviously, it would have been insane for Brooklyn to have KD return to the bubble just a little more than a year after his Achilles tear in last June's Finals — no matter how good he apparently looked in workouts before the coronavirus shutdown.
Wall, who suffered multiple Achilles-related injuries toward the middle of the 2018-19 season, was never expected to play during the 2019-20 season. However, like Kevin Durant, Wall appears to have fully recovered from the injury, so there was a small chance he'd suit up for the Wizards later this summer. The team smartly decided against it though, so Wall will start the 2020-21 season fresh and hope to be one of the rare players who returns to his old form after such an injury.