The NBA was suspended last week after Rudy Gobert tested positive for COVID-19. Donovan Mitchell and Christian Wood have since tested positive too, and reporting from Adrian Wojnarowski suggests the league will be suspended for at least three months.
It’s all speculation at this point, of course, but there’s a possibility of playoff basketball running into August with the 2020/21 season commencing around Christmastime.
Such a lengthy hiatus not only frustrates fans, it creates enormous uncertainty across the league. These are unique times, and the NBA has taken all the right steps thus far, but there’s no question it changes a lot if they return in summer rather than spring.
These three teams are set to benefit the most from a three-month break…
Ben Simmons‘ back injury remains a great unknown. The last news was that he would be re-evaluated in three weeks, and although a three-month break doesn’t guarantee he will be back, it gives the All-Star point guard plenty of time to recover.
Joel Embiid has just returned from injury. He looked healthier than he has most of the year, but the oft-sidelined big man will no doubt benefit from a break before the post-season. Embiid and Simmons might need time to develop some chemistry (the post-pick-and-roll used against the Clippers was a sighting of what they can do) – getting them on the floor together is a starting point.
It’s been a disappointing year for Philly. A season of title hope has fallen far short so far. Having their best two players fully healthy is their best chance of compensating for that in the playoffs.
Maybe Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving sit out the 2019/20 season whenever it finishes. Maybe, though, the two All-NBA superstars the Nets added in the summer are back in time for their first-round playoff series. Brooklyn currently match up with the Toronto Raptors – is an upset on the cards if Durant and Irving return?
The Nets, after building a reputation as a model franchise, have been in a mild state of turmoil all year. Kenny Atkinson has gone – the break could allow Brooklyn to hire a replacement for a potential playoff run. These scenarios are far-fetched, of course, but this is a freaky time in the NBA. It’s a time when strange things could happen, and Brooklyn, with an already solid group, adding Durant and Irving, will not be a fun first-round opponent.
Sidelined for the ‘foreseeable future’, Jaren Jackson Jr. would have a chance of returning in Wojnarowski’s reported circumstances. The Grizz occupy the eight-seed currently, and with a rough regular season schedule remaining, would benefit greatly if the regular season is shortened or stopped altogether.
The Portland Trail Blazers, New Orleans Pelicans and San Antonio Spurs have been chasing down the inexperienced Memphis team, led by rookie sensation Ja Morant. A period of rest as these young players get accustomed to the NBA might be useful.
Time off doesn’t elevate the Grizzlies to title contention like it could with Philadelphia, nor does it make them a team with the potential to upset the odds like Brooklyn. It aids their cause for an improbable playoff berth, though, as they look to complete a wonderful season.