The NBA is back! After a four-month interlude that felt like eternity, the 2019–2020 season will finally be continued, with 22 of the 30 teams invited to the NBA bubble in Orlando.
Needless to say, these are exciting times for basketball fans. With that in mind, we’ve compiled a list of 5 things to keep an eye on once the NBA season resumes on July 31. We’re hyped, and we know you are, too, so take a look!
Small ball, Rockets style
Small ball was most notably used during the Golden State Warriors’ three title runs this decade. This season, the Houston Rockets are taking small to the extreme, excising big man Clint Capela and putting 6-8 wing Robert Covington in his place.
The results have been mixed at best, but then again the sample size has been small due to the 2020 season. Expect coach Mike D’Antoni to fully unleash his turbo-charged, centre-less lineup, which figures to be fascinating to watch, especially with James Harden and Russell Westbrook leading the charge.
Simmons at the 4
The Philadelphia 76ers’ Ben Simmons is an anomaly: a 6-10 guard, but a guard who can’t shoot. This means his fit with Joel Embiid is tenuous, making a lineup of Simmons, Embiid, and Al Horford near unplayable.
Yahoo report that the Sixers are apparently slotting Simmons at power forward, with Embiid at centre, Tobias Harris and Josh Richardson on the wings, and Shake Milton at point. It’s a lineup that can potentially unleash the Sixers’ potential, as it surrounds Simmons and Embiid with shooters. It can also backfire, with this lineup logging zero minutes together before the NBA restart. It will be interesting to see if this lineup plays out.
LeBron on a mission
LeBron James has been on a mission, even though he has nothing else to prove anymore. He is a four-time MVP, three-time champ, and many-time All-NBA selection. He is also 4th in Expatbets’ list of the richest basketball players in the world, with his $440 million (£345 million) estimated net worth just shy of Laker great Magic Johnson’s $600 million (£470 million) career earnings.
Put simply, The King is rounding out his legacy and adding to his fortune — all while proving to the Purple and Gold that he’s worth every penny of that lavish $154 million (£120.7 million) contract he signed last year. There’s no question that he is. And with MVP chatter seemingly overlooking The King, expect a little something extra from an in-form LeBron. That will be must-see TV, especially with the Lakers being title favourites.
The Mavs are 4th in Zach Lowe’s list of 13 fascinating lineups for the bubble, and Luka Dončić is the biggest reason.
He has been nothing short of magical — running pick-and-rolls to perfection and destroying opposing big men who dare switch out on him. Dončić is a joy to watch, too, with his seemingly endless array of moves and counter-moves, effortless demeanour, and clutch gene. He’ll get to showcase all those again in Orlando, and the world will have plenty of time to see the magic.
One wrinkle the NBA introduced for this restart is the play-in. If the 8th and 9th seeds are within 4 games of each other, they’ll play for the last playoff spot. But the former will have to beat the latter twice to advance. A play-in will be a first in NBA history — and it’s a distinct possibility in both conferences! Out East, the Washington Wizards are just 5.5 games behind the Orlando Magic, who will likely miss Jonathan Isaac and possibly bring Markelle Fultz slowly. Out West, the young Memphis Grizzlies are just 3.5 games clear of the New Orleans Pelicans, Portland Trailblazers, and Sacramento Kings.
Now, as we all wait for the new season, tell us what you think about our list first. Did we miss anything? Comment your thoughts below!