Thursday, June 4, 2020 was the day that NBA fans had been waiting for since the NBA went into a hiatus on March 12. After months of speculation that the current 2019-20 season would be canceled, as many thought, the NBA Board of Governors voted to approve the NBA’s new 22-team format to resume the current season and move forward into the playoffs.
The NBA also released a breakdown of the notable dates for the NBA offseason and transition into next season. The 2020 Draft Lottery will take place August 25th, and the draft will occur on October 15th, right around the league’s final scheduled date of October 12th, should we witness a game 7 of the NBA Finals. Free agency will begin three days later on October 18th, and before we know it, training camp for the 2021 season starts on November 10th, with the new season starting December 1st.
It might not look pretty, but if it means getting basketball back while not jeopardizing next season’s start time and season length, then I’m all for it.
That being said, this upcoming schedule and playoff format, not to mention the four months that will have been taken off, brings a tremendous amount of uncertainty. With lots of time before July 31’s start date, it’s time to dust off the keyboard and go back to typing NBA hot takes that maybe I only find plausible. We’ll see what you think.
Five NBA Hot Takes For The Resumed Season
John Wall Returns After Two Seasons, But The Wizards Miss the Playoffs
This is among the most interesting storylines for fans to sink their teeth into while we await the league’s revival. John Wall hasn’t played since December 26, 2018, after rupturing his Achilles tendon, one of the more devastating injuries an NBA player can obtain. Wall claims to be “110 percent ready” to come back, but one has to take into account the situation the Washington Wizards are in right now.
Is Wall coming back to play worth it? Will Wall and Bradley Beal be able to get back on the same page on the court?
Washington is the only Eastern Conference non-playoff team among the 22 total that will be resuming play. Outside of Bradley Beal, who has enjoyed a breakout season to superstardom, the Wizards roster isn’t exactly playoff material. I can’t say with full confidence that Bradley Beal and a rusty John Wall alone will be enough to put this team over the Orlando Magic or the Brooklyn Nets, as those teams will likely be the ones battling it out for the last two playoff seeds. The Wizards are already five games out of playoff contention at the moment, so every game for them is crucial upon return.
It’ll be fun to see Wall return to the floor, if he even does that is. Executives around the league believe he is unlikely to play in Orlando, but nothing is set in stone. There’s quite a chunk of time between now and July 31st.
Memphis Grizzlies Will Hold Onto the 8th Seed in a Close Race with Portland
A Young, Hungry Memphis Team is What the NBA Needs in Their Playoff Picture
It’s time for the playoffs to see some fresh faces, specifically the Western Conference, and none might be more fresher than a young, raw Memphis Grizzlies squad. Led by star rookie point guard Ja Morant and second-year big man Jaren Jackson Jr., the Grizzlies are very much on the rise and their identity is starting to grow.
This team isn’t quite the same as the old Grit ‘n Grind Grizzlies of the 2000s and 2010s, but some aspects are very reminiscent. The most notable being how competitive this bunch is and how hungry they are. With a few teams on their tail, Memphis’ young bunch is going to be put to a test like none other they’ve previously undertaken. The way the standings read now, Memphis holds the eighth seed with Portland 3.5 games behind. If there is one team that wants a playoff seeding more desperately than Memphis does, it’s Portland.
Damian Lillard, CJ McCollum, and the Portland Trail Blazers had an underwhelming season this year, one year after reaching the Western Conference Finals, and now see themselves outside of the playoff picture looking in. Lillard is for sure raring to go and lead his bunch back to the postseason in hopes of a lengthy run, but ultimately, with only 8 games on the schedule upon return, there just might not be enough time for Portland to muster a comeback with that much of a spread given.
Although it’ll be under the most unique circumstances, Memphis will enjoy having their young core gain the slightest bit of playoff exposure as their rebuild took a significant jump this season and will likely lead to an early-round exit in the playoffs.
Bank on a Surprise Early Exit For One of The Top Seeds
This season has been anything but ordinary, and I don’t think it takes a real genius for anyone to read between those lines. The tragic passing of Kobe Bryant, the newly formatted All-Star Game, the sudden hiatus, and the long-awaited revival of the season taking place in Orlando at DisneyWorld has made this season one of the most bizarre and memorable ones we will ever see, for good and bad reasons. So why not shake things up a little more.
Yes, players and teams are going to be shaking off some rust after not playing for several months, hence the eight regular-season games that will take place before the playoffs. Although this is still the continuation of the 2019-20 season, this is, in some aspects, the start of a whole new season. When July 31st rolls around, it will be the first time that NBA action has taken place since March 12, nearly five months in between. That is longer than an NBA offseason for most franchises. Players’ bodies, mindsets, and skill levels will surely fluctuate upon the season’s return, and our preseason predictions that we made back in October might as well be thrown out the window.
That being said, don’t be shocked to see that surprise exit from a top-seeded team in the playoffs, as everyone is in the same boat and has had to overcome the same obstacles under these new guidelines. All it takes is a few lucky nights for a team to make that upset and skate by to the new round.
With This Much Time Off From Play, Some Teams Are More Likely to Suffer Than Most
If I were the betting man, that I am not, I wouldn’t be shocked to see an early bounce from a team like upper tiered team like the Houston Rockets or Miami Heat. Houston already has two of the best players who have never (to this point) won a ring, and maybe will never, so they already have that pressure looming over them. I wouldn’t be surprised to see a full-on collapse this postseason from them, ultimately making Houston tread water once more.
Miami is just a young team overall with a mix of players who have plenty of postseason experience, and a handful of players with none. That alone might hurt them this season, as the amount of time missed and the aforementioned lack of a playoff mindset may ultimately make them a quick exit in the early round.
Once the season ramps up again, it is going to catch a lot of teams off-guard and ultimately, make for a more unpredictable outcome in the end.
This Will Be Lebron James’ Last Trip to the NBA Finals
This one is fresh out of the oven, but it’s been a slow cook. Yes, for as long as he is still playing and in the championship picture, LeBron James is going to be considered the best player in the league. However, championships are won by teams, not individual players. It’s been four years since James last hoisted a trophy, and last year, James missed out on the playoffs altogether.
Age, Timeline, and Stakes Could Make This Lebron’s Own “Last Dance”
Granted James didn’t have perhaps the best big man in today’s game by his side last season, also the fact that he was hobbled by his first real injury, some might’ve considered it to be a sign of his age. Age is his biggest rival at this point. At 35 years old, James’ best shot to win, or last shot, may very well be this year.
The NBA is constantly in a fluid state. The league is always able to turn on a dime, with players demanding trades, super teams forming midseason, offseason free agency, and young players turning into franchise stars. The Los Angeles Lakers are at the top of the NBA, but they have a handful of teams on their tail ready to knock them off, specifically the other team representing the City of Angels, the Los Angeles Clippers.
The Clippers have two stars in Kawhi Leonard and Paul George in the prime of their careers, surrounded by a well-rounded championship-caliber roster, something that the Lakers can’t say for themselves. If the Lakers are to make anything of this Lebron James-Anthony Davis duo, they need to strike now while the iron is hot. Also taking into account Davis’ pending free agency, but he seems like a lock to resign.
Jayson Tatum Cements His “Most Improved Player of the Year” Campaign and Leads The Celtics to the Semi-Finals
This season introduced a handful of new talent and fresh faces to the scene, and if you needed any more proof, look at this year’s All-Star Game. 10 first-time selections this year. One of them being Jayson Tatum. At the moment, Tatum isn’t being highlighted as a strong candidate for Most Improved Player award this year, but at a second glance, he’s probably the most qualified candidate.
Sure, there are players like DeVonte’ Graham, who went from the 12th man off the Charlotte Hornets’ bench to the team’s leading scorer, or Bam Adebayo, who now as the team’s starting center is one of the best two-way big men in the league. Brandon Ingram is another strong candidate, as he finally began to tap into that potential that fans and scouts saw in him coming out of Duke. However, none of these names have particularly grown or elevated their game quite like Tatum did this season.
Tatum’s Mid-Season Jump To Superstardom Should Turn the Celtics Into Dark Horse Favorites
From being the second option on a dumpster fire 2018-19 Boston Celtics bench a year ago, Tatum assumed the role of the team’s leading scorer and also became an above-average league defender, something very few were high on him for. We haven’t seen a player take a midseason leap from young star to franchise superstar quite like Tatum did this season in quite some time.
When the calendar turned another year, Tatum tapped into a new side of his game that Celtics fans hadn’t yet seen. His greatest red flag in his career to this point was his consistency or lack thereof, but once Tatum found that there was no stopping him. Tatum won his first Eastern Conference Player of the Month in February, and rightfully so, putting up over 30 PPG on nearly 50% shooting.
With this much time being off since basketball was last played, I strongly believe that the NBA Finals trophy is truly up for grabs by a multitude of teams, the Celtics included. This unique upcoming postseason run is a great opportunity for Tatum and the Celtics, as they have really as good a shot as any other team.
Tatum has a chance to truly cement his Most Improved Player campaign and show the league that he is going to be a problem for the next decade by leading this Celtics bunch to a deep playoff run, as with the new proposed playoff format, they could face off with some of the West’s top tier teams rather than continue to play a seemingly weaker Eastern Conference bunch.
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