Which Teams Will Benefit (and Which Teams Won't) From the NBA's Hiatus
It’s now our ninth day without the NBA, but we recently learned that the league is still focused on completing the season. Commissioner Adam Silver told ESPN’s Rachel Nichols that while there could be some major changes following a return, the NBA world is still motivated to complete their campaign following this NBA Hiatus.
“I’m optimistic by nature, and I want to believe that we’re going to be able to salvage at least some portions of this season,” Silver said (via ESPN’s Tim Bontemps). “I would say we have done new and creative things in the past. We experimented with this year’s All-Star Game with a unique ending. We’ve talked about play-in tournaments for going into the playoffs. There may be other things we can do with the format.”
At some point, we’ll surely learn more about how the NBA could reshape their calendar, including both the regular season and the playoffs. At the very least, it seems like we’ll be able to see our favorite teams compete in some iteration of the 2019-20 postseason.
Therefore, it’d be silly to ignore the implications that this hiatus could end up having on the NBA landscape. Like it or not, this months-long interruption will have both a positive and negative impact on some of our favorite squads. We explored those individual teams below.
Benefit: Toronto Raptors
Assuming the NBA is off for at least eight weeks, every team will have a golden opportunity to get healthy.
However, those teams outside of the playoff picture surely won’t benefit. While it’ll be a nice silver lining for the bona fide contenders (Lakers, Bucks, Clippers), they also won’t see a major incentive.
Instead, the teams that will benefit the most are the squads that are sniffing that upper echelon of the NBA. In that case, the defending champs have a major opportunity to benefit from a health perspective.
The Raptors have seemingly been snake bitten by injuries all season long. Practically every major member of their team (including Pascal Siakam, Kyle Lowry, Serge Ibaka, Fred VanVleet, and Serge Ibaka) has missed at least 10+ games, and the squad was limping at the time of the NBA’s suspension. As @ManGamesLostNBA points out on Twitter, the Raptors had 11.31 “wins lost” thanks to injuries, the highest mark in the league.
Despite that, the Raptors still sit with one of the best records in the NBA. With a hobbled, limping team, it would have taken a miracle for Toronto to get past the favored Bucks. However, at full strength, there might not be another team in the conference that has a better shot of beating Milwaukee.
Detriment: Utah Jazz
With all due respect to the Jazz, one of the major reasons they found themselves sitting fourth in the Western Conference was a lack of injuries. While Utah had generally been a disappointment throughout the campaign, they were guided to 41 wins thanks to the fact that they had the third-fewest “games missed by injured players” in the entire league (per @ManGamesLostNBA).
So why will this prove to be a detriment? While the Jazz have some nice depth, their health is the only reason to explain their current standing. Utah has been one of the most disappointing teams in the NBA this season, as they’ve struggled to fit prized acquisition Mike Conley into the lineup.
If this whole NBA suspension had never happened, Utah would have been a popular pick to be upset in the first round of the playoffs (assuming they held on to the four seed). With other teams getting healthy, Utah’s lone advantage will disappear.
Benefit: Boston Celtics
Players will surely be working out throughout the league suspension, but playing in an NBA game is a whole different animal. Considering the (at least) eight-week hiatus, it wouldn’t be shocking to see some of the told teams take a bit to regain their footing.
On the flip side, the younger squads shouldn’t have an issue diving back into things, and the means the Boston Celtics will have a great opportunity to take advantage. The Celtics have the eighth-youngest roster in the entire NBA, with six of the other seven squads out of the playoff picture (the Grizzlies are the lone exception).
Further, the Celtics are reliant on their young players, with Jayson Tatum taking a major leap in the weeks before the hiatus. With Kemba Walker getting some extra time to recover, the Celtics’ fresh legs could lead them on a playoff run.
Detriment: Houston Rockets
Unsurprisingly, the three “oldest” squads in the NBA are all pushing for a playoff run. While the Los Angeles Lakers and Milwaukee Bucks have the transcendent talent to overcome an obstacle thrown their way, the Houston Rockets aren’t as lucky.
The team is already heavily reliant on James Harden and Russell Westbrook, but we’re not even worried about that duo. Rather, its the likes of P.J. Tucker and Eric Gordon who could struggle following the commencement of the season. Midseason additions like DeMarre Carroll and Jeff Green are also up there in age. The Rockets will be relying on these players to make a playoff run, but considering the grouping’s collective age, that doesn’t seem likely (especially following a lengthy break).
Players like Tucker and Gordon will surely need some games to regain their footing. At that point, it might be too late for them to make a playoff run.