The NBA after a months-long hiatus is restarting its season in a bubble down in Orlando, Florida. So far no NBA players have tested positive since entering the bubble, so it seems that the social distancing and mask wearing mandates for the players and staffs are proving effective thus far (there are strict rules as to who can and cannot enter the bubble, quarantining procedures, etc.).
There will be about a week of exhibition games (with shortened quarters — 10 minutes instead of 12) before play resumes on July 30. All but the eight teams with the lowest records have been included, and after each team plays eight games, the final playoff seeds will be determined and the playoffs will commence. Let the games begin!
This has been the strangest season the NBA has ever had, obviously, and the strangeness has continued for the Michigan State players in the league. Many guys were on teams that struggled, many guys were in roles and situations that did not serve them well, and now some of them have seen their seasons end, while others prepare for the restart and, potentially, the playoffs.
The Warriors, long out of contention, have seen their season come to a close. Draymond had a brutal season: without Steph Curry for all but a few games, and without Klay Thompson for the whole season, the Warriors season was DOA. Draymond, never capable of singlehandedly carrying a team, had his worst season, statistically, since his first couple of seasons in the league.
That being said, Draymond also got plenty of time to rest up and recharge while taking what amounted to a year off. The Warriors look poised to get back into the thick of it next season when Steph and Klay return. They also traded D’Angelo Russell for Andrew Wiggins, who looks poised to fit well with the Warriors as a third option in the starting group and leading various bench units. The Warriors have a top-five draft pick, a traded-player exception (of $17 million), and two second round picks. With a solid set of reserve players in Kevon Looney, Marquese Chriss, Eric Paschall, Damion Lee, and Jordan Poole in tow the Warriors will be ready to dismay again soon.
After a frustrating season where his averages dipped down to their worst levels since his rookie year, Gary Harris, finally healthy and rested, has a chance at redemption with Denver in this bubble period. Gary was just getting rolling as the season got shut down, Nikola Jokic appears to have lost a ton of weight and looks in top shape, and the rest of Denver’s roster, which dealt with injuries throughout the season, may have a chance to really shock some teams in the Western Conference playoffs.
Here are some Gary Harris defensive highlights for your viewing pleasure:
Valentine’s season with the Bulls is over, and his tenure with the Bulls has surely come to an end as well. This is all to the good for Denzel, who was never given a real chance to compete for a rotation spot in Chicago despite showing shooting and scoring acumen that could make him a really useful second-unit guy.
The odds are high that Valentine will have to take a steeply discounted “show-me” deal, so his agent will need to do some consulting and thinking about where Valentine will have a shot to play and to show what he has to offer now that he will be a full year and a half removed from his ankle surgery. Denzel, now a veteran, will get another shot to stay in the league, but he will have to show what he can do defensively as much as what he can do on offense.
There are a lot of teams that could use Valentine’s skill-set, particularly assuming that his three-point shooting resumes the upward trajectory it was on before his ankle surgery. Teams like Atlanta and Cleveland are both young teams in need of shooting and playmaking off the bench. And teams like Houston, the LA Lakers, Milwaukee, Philadelphia, and Toronto all will need to fill holes in their rotation due to free agent departures, and will all be on the look-out for good-passing, good shooting guards with a bit of positional size.
In his second season as a starter in San Antonio, Bryn has been solid albeit unspectacular. I still view him as a reserve player in the NBA rather than a starter, where he gets exposed defensively at times against the best off-guards in the league, but Bryn has unequivocally found a great situation in San Antonio over the past few years.
The challenge for Forbes moving forward is that San Antonio has five guards under-contract for next season, including three developmental guys who all have bright futures ahead of themselves (Dejounte Murray, Derrick White, and Lonnie Walker IV). With Forbes and Belinelli both becoming free agents this off-season, one has to wonder whether Greg Popovich and R.C. Buford will re-sign either, one or the other, or both.
For now, Bryn will get a chance to convince the front office that his hard work and development should be rewarded with another contract. If Bryn can get on one of his patented hot-streaks, he could, potentially, help shoot San Antonio into the playoff picture (they are on the outside looking in going into these eight games). If he can do that, and have a solid playoffs, then he will likely get another deal in San Antonio. Either way, Bryn has proved that he can play in this league, and his shooting is an undeniable weapon that will keep him in the league for years to come.
Bridges and the Hornets also have already moved onto the off-season. Despite Miles’ mixed season on offense — some good, some bad — he clearly took a step forward in terms of his consistency night-in and night-out. Defensively Miles has become a better wing defender and grades out pretty well there too.
There are some rumblings that Bridges and PJ Washington may not be a great on-court pairing, but I think it is too early to tell which way this young Hornets core will go. They need a good big, they need Malik Monk to do something with his career, and they need more shooting and defense off the bench.
Year three is usually when we get a good idea of who a player really is in the NBA, so this coming season will be a huge one for Miles.
Jaren Jackson Jr:
Jaren Jackson Jr. had a superb second season in the league for the Memphis Grizzlies. Playing with Ja Morant, the Grizzlies have one of the most exciting duos on their hands in these two young beasts. Jaren struggled a bit to start the year, but really hit a groove in December and January before his season was cut short by injury in mid-February.
The Grizz are in the eighth spot in the West, facing a match-up against the Los Angeles Lakers in the first round if the NBA playoffs happen (with the current seeding), so Jaren should get his first taste of the playoffs with a no-pressure chance to shock the world. Finally healthy again, the Grizzlies have played competitive ball against all of the other teams in the West so I give them a puncher’s chance against whichever team they face.
While he is still struggling with foul-trouble, JJJ’s talent is other-worldly. As he averages 21 points, six rebounds, about two assists, one steal, and two blocks per-36 minutes. This is a future star in the league and he fits as a three-point shooting beast in a league that values spacing.
It should be fun watching Gary, Bryn, and Jaren in the restart and to watch at least two of them in the playoffs.