A week from today on August 17th, the NBA playoffs will begin. But first, the guaranteed play-in tournament will happen Saturday (and Sunday if needed). Meaning the NBA restart is entering its last week. So far, the bubble has been a raging success. Since July 30th, we’ve been treated to highly competitive games on a daily basis. Over the course of the NBA restart, a lot has changed. Injuries have taken a toll on some teams. And, teams who were at the bottom of the standings are now in the thick of the playoff race. Here are the biggest takeaways from the NBA restart so far.
Biggest Takeaways From The NBA Restart
The Lakers Have Struggled
Entering Monday, the Los Angeles Lakers have a 2-4 record in the restart. Although they clinched the number one seed already, they haven’t played how we expected. Among the biggest takeaways is what was once a feared offense has since crumbled. The Lakers are last in points per game, assists per game, and three-point shooting percentage in the bubble. In two of his six games, Anthony Davis failed to register 10 points. In addition, his field goal percentage has been below 29 in half of his games.
Meanwhile, MVP finalist, LeBron James hasn’t been the same player either. James admitted to struggling to play without fans; and committing 13 turnovers in his first three games is proof. The silver lining for Lakers fans is the defense is still really good, and Rajon Rondo should rejoin the team for the first round. Ultimately, this isn’t the same team I picked to win the Finals. Their lack of spacing on offense could prove to be costly against their first-round opponent.
The Race For The Eight Seed In The West Is Intense
Speaking of first-round opponents; the Lakers still don’t know who they’ll be facing in round one. Entering Monday, four teams are neck and neck for the final playoff spot. These teams are the Memphis Grizzlies, Portland Trail Blazers, San Antonio Spurs, and Phoenix Suns. And these four teams have been the talk of the NBA bubble.
The Grizzlies appear to be in the worst spot after losing Jaren Jackson Jr to a devastating knee injury. Jackson was averaging 25 points in his three games before the injury, and the team is 1-5 overall. Meanwhile, the Trail Blazers and Suns have been the biggest shocks in the bubble. The Blazers are fully healthy with Jusuf Nurkic back in the fold. Nurkic is putting up 19 points, 10 rebounds per game, and his 91 percent free-throw shooting is a luxury to have. But it’s not just Nurkic that’s been huge for the Blazers. Damian Lillard has scored 33 points per game, Carmelo Anthony has hit his shots, and Gary Trent Jr has been one of the biggest breakout stars in the bubble.
But among the biggest takeaways so far has been the evolution of the Suns. Entering the restart, the Suns were the forgotten team out west. Now the Suns are the last unbeaten team, have the fourth-best defensive rating in the bubble, and are gaining the attention of the league. Devin Booker has taken his playmaking to another level along with his scoring, and role players like Cameron Johnson and Dario Saric are coming into their own. Finally, the San Antonio Spurs have clawed their way into the picture. This is thanks to DeMar DeRozan being the best fourth-quarter player in the restart thus far, and the Spurs shooting over 40 percent from three. The race for the eighth seed will guarantee the last week of the restart stays competitive.
Injuries Are Mounting, But New Talent Arises
Even though every team has only played five or six games each, injuries have mounted across the NBA. Going into the restart, we knew about the Brooklyn Nets and how bad their roster was hurt by injuries and opt-outs. Presently the Philadelphia 76ers have been hit as bad as anyone. First, they lost Ben Simmons to a knee injury for the rest of the season. And, against the Trail Blazers on Sunday night, Joel Embiid went out with an ankle injury. Those two injuries could sink their season. Meanwhile, the Orlando Magic lost Jonathan Isaac to a torn ACL, and have dealt with injuries to Aaron Gordon, Evan Fournier, and Michael Carter-Williams.
But, where the glass is half empty, it is also half full. Injuries will always suck, but the next man up mentality gives players the chance to break out and shine. Players like Trent on the Trail Blazers, Michael Porter Jr on the Denver Nuggets, Caris LeVert on the Nets, and T.J. Warren on the Indiana Pacers have been among the biggest breakthrough stars. Warren specifically has been the MVP of the restart with an absurd stat-line and efficiency. The talent level in the NBA is extraordinary right now, and it’s always getting better.
Biggest Takeaways: NBA Restart Is Everything We Could’ve Hoped
When the NBA restarted play, it was a gamble. But so far in a week and a half of action, it’s been everything fans could’ve hoped for. There’s drama between stars, breakout players, competitive games going down to the wire, and most importantly zero positive COVID tests. When the bottom feeder teams weren’t invited to the restart, it ensured the quality of games will be great. And of all the biggest takeaways, that’s the biggest takeaway from the NBA restart so far.
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