The 2019-20 NBA regular season will resume Thursday, July 30, when the Pelicans meet the Jazz and the Clippers take on the Lakers. As you probably know, all games will be played at ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex in Kissimmee, Florida.
We’ll see 22 teams in this special bubble, and each side will play eight games to determine the seeders. If No. 9 seed stays within four games of No. 8 seed, those two teams will enter the play-in series, which is basically best-of-two series where No. 9 needs two straight wins over No. 8 that needs one victory to reach the first round of the playoffs.
Following the full schedule for the season resumption, some teams can be satisfied with what they got, while others will have a very difficult task.
Therefore, I want to show you the biggest winners and losers of the 2020 NBA season resumption slate. This could be useful to consider if you’re betting on the NBA as it resumes.
New Orleans Pelicans
The Pelicans had the easiest remaining schedule when the league was suspended back in March. So it’s no strange that the Pelicans will have the easiest schedule in the bubble. New Orleans is the only team whose remaining rivals have a sub-.500 combined winning percentage.
After the opening clash against the Jazz, the Pelicans will have another tough matchup with the LA Clippers. The remaining six games are pretty winnable, including the clash against the Memphis Grizzlies on August 3. The Pelicans will meet Orlando, San Antonio, Washington, and Sacramento twice.
However, the Pelicans are three and a half games behind the Grizzlies, so they will need some bad results by Memphis in order to sneak into the playoffs. Also, the Pelicans will have to storm the front and win at least one of their first two contests against the Jazz and Clippers.
At least the Pelicans are coming in full strength. Zion Williamson looks like he’s in great shape, as well as Brandon Ingram, while J.J. Redick said he lost 10 pounds and is close to his college days weight. The Pelicans are fired up to secure the play-in series, at least, so they’ll be very interesting to watch in the next eight games.
The Sixers will return to the floor on the first day of August, taking on the Indiana Pacers, who are tied with Phila for the fifth-best record in the Eastern Conference. After that, the Sixers will play five consecutive games against the sub-.500 teams, while their remaining schedule is the second-easiest in the NBA.
Also, the Sixers are just two games behind the fourth-seeded Miami Heat. They have a solid chance to challenge the Heat for the No. 4 seed, and I think the Sixers won’t calculate and try to avoid the top-seeded Milwaukee Bucks in the semifinals.
Anyway, the Sixers got a nice schedule to slowly build up their form. They will have a few weeks to gel the things before the playoffs start, and the 76ers need exactly that. Despite all the talent, Philadelphia didn’t look like a serious championship contender back in March.
Ben Simmons has recovered from an injury, which is excellent news for the 76ers’ fans. Josh Richardson has had a lot of injury problems, too, but he should be fresh for a restart at Disney World. The Sixers could be one of a few teams that enjoyed the break, and the second-easiest schedule will only help them on the way to the postseason.
The Celtics enter the bubble as No. 3 seed in the East. They are two and a half games ahead of the Heat and three games behind the second-seeded Toronto Raptors, so the Celtics should be pleased with their schedule, as only New Orleans and Philadelphia have an easier path than Boston.
Five of the Celtics’ ultimate eight games will come against the sub-.500 teams, including the regular-season finale against the hapless Washington Wizards, who will miss Bradley Beal and Davis Bertans. Boston has an opportunity to mount a serious challenge for No. 2 seed, but the Celtics have to beat Miami on August 4 and Toronto on August 7.
Now, why is it so important to clinch the second seed in the east? Simply, No. 3 seed will play Indiana or Philadelphia in the first round, while No. 2 will have a much easier job against Brooklyn, Orlando, or Washington.
Even if they fail to surpass the Raptors, the Celtics should easily clinch No. 3 seed and shape their form ahead of the postseason. They certainly don’t want to take on the Bucks in the semis.
The reigning champions desperately want to clinch the second seed in the Eastern Conference. However, they have the second-most difficult schedule and will meet six over-.500 teams plus the Memphis Grizzlies, who fight for their playoff lives.
In the opener, the Raptors meet the LA Lakers, while their next rival is Miami. Their ultimate three contests will come against the Bucks, 76ers, and Nuggets. As I’ve mentioned, the Raptors will take on the third-seeded Celtics, too, and an eventual loss in that clash could really damage their morale.
On the bright side, the reigning champs had enough time to heal all the injuries around their squad. The Raptors have been struggling to stay healthy during the 2019-20 season, and they are a very good team when Nick Nurse can count on his best players.
First, the Grizzlies are one of the biggest losers simply because the Pelicans got the easiest remaining schedule. Second, they are tied with the Lakers for the fourth-toughest slate.
The Grizzlies open against the Portland Trail Blazers, who are one of four teams with solid chances to force the play-in series. In their first five contests, the Grizzlies will meet the conference foes, while they play the Raptors, Celtics, and Bucks in the ultimate three games of the regular season.
Although the Pelicans look like the biggest danger for the Grizzlies, the Trail Blazers, Kings, and Spurs are all within four games of the No. 7 seed. So the Grizzlies will be in big trouble if they start slowly and could easily slip out of the play-in series.
Memphis is a young and inexperienced team, which will be a problem in Florida. Every game will be important, putting a lot of pressure on the Grizzlies’ shoulders. At least, the Grizzlies will meet the mighty Bucks in their season finale, and Milwaukee should lock up the top seed before that and rest its best players.
Portland Trail Blazers
The Trail Blazers have been one of the NBA’s underperforming teams this season. They meet the Grizzlies when they return to the court on the last day of July. Obviously, it’s a must-win occasion, as the Trail Blazers are 3.5 games behind Memphis. Portland will close down the regular season against the Brooklyn Nets, while everything in between will be an uphill battle.
After the opener, the Trail Blazers will take on the Celtics, Rockets, Nuggets, Clippers, 76ers, and Mavericks. It looks like a bumpy road, while the Trail Blazers went 10-21 against winning teams before the season was suspended.
All of their eight games are against clubs currently in the playoffs, so the Trail Blazers will have an extremely difficult road to the playoffs. Furthermore, they are very thin on wings after Trevor Ariza decided to sit out the rest of the season. At least Zach Collins and Jusuf Nurkic will return to the floor.