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The NBA restarted their season a week ago in Orlando, Florida and you have 22 teams chasing for 16 spots in the playoffs. So let’s take a look at how I have ranked the teams in their opening week of the NBA Bubble.
(Bubble Records are current as of the end of the games on August 4th, 2020)
(1). Toronto Raptors (2-0)
The Raptors have taken advantage of being the only non-Florida team to be in the state of Florida before anyone else. Beating both the L.A Lakers and Miami Heat makes this an easy selection.
(2). Los Angeles Lakers (2-1)
LeBron James and Anthony Davis took care of the top overall seed in the Western Conference playoffs with their win against Utah. Now the real question for Frank Vogel is how much more does the dynamic duo play over the next six games.
(3). Phoenix Suns- (3-0)
No one, including myself, expected this team to be undefeated after three games in Orlando. Devin Booker and DeAndre Ayton have played outstanding, but also give it up for Dario Saric and his 14 points and 7.3 rebounds per game off the bench.
(4). Indiana Pacers (3-0)
I’m not sure how many more adjectives I can say about T.J. Warren in the opening three games of the bubble. He’s the leader so far for MVP and every point scored makes up for the loss of All-Star Domantas Sabonis. The Pacers are getting healthy and they could be the most dangerous team in the Eastern Conference.
(5). Miami Heat (2-1)
The Heat have come to the bubble ready to make some noise. Beating Denver by 20 is one thing but beating the Boston Celtics without Jimmy Butler is something else. Even though Butler, Goran Dragic and Bam Adebayo are playing really well, Kelly Olynyk (17.3 points and 6.0 rebounds per game since the bubble) has given the team another weapon in Eric Spolestra’s offense.
(6). Portland Trail Blazers (2-1)
People talk about Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum as the main pieces of the Portland attack. But the return of Jusuf Nurkic and the emergence of Gary Trent Jr has allowed Portland to catch the 9th spot and the all important inside track on forcing a play-in game with the Memphis Grizzlies.
(7). Houston Rockets (2-1)
Small ball is working in the bubble. Their wins included outscoring Dallas while hitting 21 threes and erasing a fourth quarter deficit against Milwaukee. Even though they have been out-rebounded in each game (-65 total), the ability to hit from the three-point line (58 for 162) kept them in every game.
(8). Orlando Magic (2-1)
Losing Jonathan Issac is a huge blow to a team that had picked up where it had left off before the stoppage of play. The Magic are averaging 123 points a game, a sharp contrast to the 107 points per game before the stoppage.
(9). San Antonio Spurs (2-1)
Give the Spurs credit. Not having LaMarcus Aldridge available and using DeMar DeRozan at power forward has worked so far. The Spurs three guards (Derrick White, Dejounte Murray and Lonnie Walker), DeRozan and Jakob Poeltl have made their three opponents treat San Antonio very differently. If it wasn’t for Shake Milton hitting a game winner, the Spurs might be the biggest surprise in the bubble.
(10.) Denver Nuggets (1-1)
Denver is a bad news/ good news team. The bad news is that they are missing three of their major guards in their playoff rotation (Jamal Murray, Gary Harris and Will Barton) and it shows. The good news is that we get to see more of Michael Porter Jr and Bol Bol.
(11). Philadelphia 76ers (1-1)
It’s been a weird start for Brett Brown’s group. In the opener, Joel Embiid finished with 44 points and 21 rebounds and they lost to an Indiana team that got 53 points from Warren. Then Raul Neto scores just as many points (8 points) as Ben Simmons in less than half of the time on the court (11 minutes for Neto and 25 minutes for Simmons) in a Philadelphia victory. The way the 76ers season has gone, this isn’t anything out of ordinary.
(12). Oklahoma City Thunder (1-1)
After dominating the Utah Jazz from start to finish in their opening game, they allowed Michael Porter Jr. to introduce himself to the nation in Game 2. Now with Dennis Schroder away from the team (congratulations on the birth of his child), the Thunder now need to find another scoring threat from their untested group off the bench.
(13). Brooklyn Nets (2-1)
Beating the Washington Wizards was one thing but beating the Milwaukee Bucks without Caris LeVert, Joe Harris and Jarrett Allen is something completely different. But with Jamal Crawford hurting his hamstring, the already thin Nets have gotten thinner.
(14). Milwaukee Bucks (1-2)
Now the Houston loss was unacceptable especially after out rebounding the Rockets by 29 and having an eight-point lead with three minutes left in the fourth quarter. The Brooklyn loss is not as bad as it looks. No Giannis Antetokounmpo or Khris Middleton in the second half, Brook Lopez and Wesley Matthews were not available and starting point Eric Bledsoe played in his first game in the bubble. I’m not too concerned about the Bucks right now.
(15). Los Angeles Clippers (1-2)
Like the Bucks ahead of them, the Clippers just got back Lou Williams and Montrezl Harrell still hasn’t arrived in Orlando at the current moment. Even without both players, the Clippers lost both games (Lakers and Suns) in the final moments of the fourth quarter.
(16). Dallas Mavericks (1-2)
Dallas finally got their first win against the Kings and it took another historic Luka Doncic performance to get it done. Giving up 153 points to Houston and allowing 47 made three-point baskets (in all three games) will not help in the win total.
(17). Boston Celtics (1-2)
Boston beat Portland in their highlight of the first few games in the restart. The problem was not the loss against Milwaukee in the opening game but it’s the loss on Tuesday night to a Miami team that did not have Jimmy Butler and lost Goran Dragic to an injury.
(18). New Orleans Pelicans (1-2)
New Orleans is a completely different team when Zion Williamson actually has a chance to play significant minutes. New Orleans was able to finish off Memphis after head coach Alvin Gentry allowed Williamson to play meaningful fourth quarter minutes as he scored 23 points to help the Pelicans keep pace for ninth place in the West.
(19). Utah Jazz (1-2)
The Jazz’s only win in Orlando came against the New Orleans team that was just getting back Williamson. Not having the team’s second leading scorer Bojan Bodagovic available (season ending injury) has proven to be an enormous problem so far.
(20). Memphis Grizzlies (0-3)
All three of their losses have been to teams behind them in the standings. Now with the loss of Jaren Jackson Jr, the Grizzlies are going to need someone other than Ja Morant to help maintain the final playoff spot in the Western Conference.
(21). Sacramento Kings (0-3)
I’m not sure the injured Marvin Bagley III would have helped the Kings so far in Orlando. They were blown out by the Spurs and Magic and lost a heartbreaking game in overtime to Dallas. The Kings are on life support at the current moment.
(22). Washington Wizards (0-3)
Well, the good news is that they still have a chance to catch and force an elimination game. The bad news is that the Wizards have five games to make up 3.5 games to catch Orlando. I hear the lottery sounds nice this time of the year.