NBA Power Rankings: Which teams benefited the most health-wise from the shutdown?
The NBA and its players' association continue to strive for a return to the 2019-20 season in late July, despite serious concerns from a faction of players ranging from the health threat posed by the coronavirus pandemic to the optics of gaming in the current social justice movement. Who exactly comes to the Wide World of Sports complex at the Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando, Florida remains an urgent question.
The pressure on players who are skeptical about gaming is undoubtedly immense from the superstars who have formed a united front in their desire to return to the organizations that don't pay players who don't report and the fans at home Millions will watch Serious ethical issues play a role for the NBA.
COVID-19 will emerge above the Orlando bubble, especially as the number of cases has increased since the economy reopened. Optimists hope that the NBA's testing guidelines and health precautions in a quarantined location will allow the league to run smoothly without incident. Let's try living in this bubble for a moment and looking at the positive side of a four-month hiatus - the ability of injured players to restore their health to prepare for the restart of the season, provided they take a different health risk.
In my own effort to get back to normal, here's an old school attempt on an actual basketball blog: Power Ranking, from which the teams benefited the most from the health perspective in reverse order during shutdown.
[A short story about where the NBA left off and what it means for an upcoming return]
Utah Jazz lost striker Bojan Bogdanovic during an operation shutdown. (Michael Owens / Getty Images)
22. Utah Jazz
Bojan Bogdanovic played the last 62 games in a row for jazz, and yet he was operated on at the end of the season two months after the wrist shutdown, which was reported to worsen an injury he suffered in late December. Since the calendar was switched to 2020, he had scored an average of 19.7 points in 46/40/92 shooting divisions. His absence puts more strain on Joe Ingles and Utah's already flat reserve unit.
In the meantime, it was the positive coronavirus test by jazz center Rudy Gobert on March 11 that finally put the season on hold, and teammate Donovan Mitchell also tested positive the next day. Gobert's brazen approach to COVID-19 has reportedly caused a rift between the two All-Stars, and although there are signs that a relationship that was once "beyond salvation" has recently improved, chemistry is improving be the key within the bubble.
21. San Antonio Spurs
The Spurs quietly announced last Monday that the seven-time all-star LaMarcus Aldridge had undergone shoulder surgery on April 24 at the end of the season. He scored 24 points in San Antonio's last game before the break after missing his last six shoulder injury. The news came with the Spurs, one of five Western Conference teams invited to challenge the Memphis Grizzlies for the eighth seed in Orlando.
20. Washington Wizards
In a Twitter Q&A in early April, Tommy Sheppard, general manager of Wizards, said that the possibility of John Wall returning this season was "simply not feasible" because of the All-Star Point Guard due to an Achilles injury in February 2019 is not conditioned. A week later, Wall confirmed Sheppard's statement. Wizards teammate Isaac Bonga recently revealed what “crazy good” Wall looked like before the break, and Wall called himself “110 percent” recovered in late May, but he still plans to suspend this season.
The Wizards can force the eighth Orlando Magic into a play-in series if they can take two games off their deficit in the last eight regular season competitions. I'm not sure if it's more discouraging that Wall is still unable to contribute 16 months after an injury, or that he's so close and can't.
19. Brooklyn Nets
Kevin Durant is still recovering from the Achilles injury he suffered in the 2019 final. He still has to play for the nets and Kyrie Irving underwent shoulder surgery in early March. Their seasons were written off long ago, as were the networks, but the four-month hiatus opened at least one door for the possibility that they could both return to Orlando. You will not. Durant said to ESPN's "The Undefeated" last week: "My season is over," and Irving reportedly told his colleagues about this at a recent conference with the National Basketball Players Association.
Dwight Powell broke his Achilles in late January, an underestimated loss for the Mavericks. He is a smart and talented player who has had an impact on the ball in a team that has allocated most of his possessions to Luka Doncic and Kristaps Porzingis. Dallas was never better this season than when Powell was on the ground, outperforming opponents by 8.9 points per 100 possessions. He will only play in the 2020-21 season.
There was a chance that backup point guard Jalen Brunson - another unannounced and intoxicating two-way employee - could return from shoulder surgery in mid-March, but Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle closed him off in a radio interview for the rest of the week . The Mavs had already lost sight of a top 4 playoff seed, but they are in no danger of falling below their current 7th place. That means a date in the first round with the Los Angeles Clippers, without two important contributions to the depth.
17. Orlando Magic
Jonathan Isaac suffered a badly sprained knee on New Year's Day, and days later Al-Farouq Aminu underwent meniscal surgery. The loss of both affected Orlando's chances of treating Giannis Antetokounmpo in a potential first-round series with the Milwaukee Bucks, but the shutdown allows one or both of them to possibly return. Neither Isaac nor Magic President Jeff Weltman ruled out the possibility in the recent interviews, but Weltman sounded skeptical at both games at best.
On the plus side, sniper Evan Fournier is reported to be fully recovered from the sprained right elbow that prevented him from playing the last three games before the break, and will be operational at the end of July.
16. Houston Rockets
Part of the rocky season in Houston can be attributed to Eric Gordon's ineffectiveness. The 37 percent 3-point shooter of his career converted to his worst clip since 2013 when he was still recovering from knee surgery. A second knee operation last summer made a similarly slow comeback, but he has reportedly lost 12 pounds to relieve his knees and his production could increase as a result.
Russell Westbrook also rested half back to back this season after undergoing his own out-of-season knee surgery, and P.J. Tucker played with nerve damage in his shoulder. The rest should do them good, especially Tucker, who has borne an additional burden as an undersized center.
Nikola Jokic has reportedly lost significant weight during the shutdown. (AAron Ontiveroz / MediaNews Group / The Denver Post via Getty Images)
15. Denver Nuggets
Nuggets coach Mike Malone said the limited minutes of promising rookie Michael Porter Jr. are not due to limitations due to the back injury that has kept him from doing it all last season or the ankle injury that kept him in This season has cost several weeks, but hopefully some confidence has been built between the two during the break.
Nikola Jokic, who was completely out of shape this season and feared that he could appear poorly conditioned for the stretch run again, seems to have lost a lot of weight during the break. Tim Connelly, president of the basketball department in Denver, went so far as to call Jokic "beach ready" for Orlando.
14. Oklahoma City Thunder
Andre Roberson, the defensive ace who hasn't played since a knee injury in January 2018, is finally healthy enough to return after several setbacks in the past 28 months. The Thunder will give him every opportunity to contribute to his playoff chances, but must first see how he equips in the weeks leading up to the live action. "We are definitely hopeful," said OKC Director General Sam Presti to reporters at a conference call this week about The Oklahoman, "but we have to cross the next bridge."
13. Indiana Pacers
All-star guard Victor Oladipo has played in the 13 games less than 400 minutes since he returned from years of knee recovery, and in his last game before the break showed the best insight into his old self (27 points on 16 shots in 29 Minutes). His buddy on the back seat, Malcolm Brogdon, who performed admirably as lead facilitator in Oladipo's place, has recovered 100 percent from a hip injury that cost him the last three games before the shutdown. The rest were supposed to do wonders for the Indiana guard duo.
Unfortunately, Jeremy Lamb will not be there as a strong scoring backup. He suffered a serious injury to the left knee, including a cruciate ligament rupture, in late February and will not be able to return until the next season.
12. New Orleans Pelicans
Rookie Nickeil Alexander-Walker has not played since mid-February due to a wrist fracture that luckily did not require surgery. An occupation was required, which was removed in April to release him for a possible return.
The left thigh trunk J.J. Redick experienced in early March. He is said to be ready for the pelicans to pursue the eighth seed. Remember that he never missed the playoffs.
However, conditioning Zion Williamson is of paramount importance. Number 1 in the overall standings missed the first three months of the season and returned to exert a paradigm-changing influence on New Orleans in 19 games before the shutdown. He is the second heaviest player in the league, and his explosiveness exerts exceptional torque on his body, and four months before the start of the game is a bit of a concern.
11. Sacramento Kings
Marvin Bagley III, the second overall winner in the 2018 draft, missed almost two months with a broken right thumb that was suffered at the season opener in Sacramento. He returned for 13 games in December before injuring his left foot. After a four-game stint in mid-January, Bagley had pain in the same foot and hasn't played since. The kings count on their rested tall man to contribute to their playoff hunt.
10. Phoenix Suns
Sun's owner Robert Sarver was optimistic that Kelly Oubre Jr. will return from his meniscal operation on March 3 when the Orlando season reopens, and Oubre almost confirmed this expectation in a recent interview. The starting center Deandre Ayton's ankles, which have plagued him since the end of last season and have cost him his last three games, should be healthy enough for the Suns to do an unlikely playoff boost.
9. Toronto Raptors
All but two members of the Raptors' 10-man rotation have missed a significant amount of time this season, making the pursuit of a # 2 seed all the more impressive. The rest should do them good, especially Fred VanVleet, whose shoulder injury has paused him since February 25 after previous knee and thigh problems.
Marc Gasol has had a hamstring problem all season after winning titles in both the NBA and the World Cup in 2019, and the 36-year-old has lost weight during quarantine, coach Nick Nurse said.
8. Miami Heat
Each team benefits from a break to cure the kind of excruciating injuries that occur months in a long season, and the heat is no different. Jimmy Butler missed the last game before the break with a toe injury that promised to stay on without a break. Tyler Herro had just returned from an ankle injury that had cost him most of February, and Meyers Leonard had still not played since his ankle injury on February 3. The heat expects them to have their full number of players when they play fourth seed again as a player.
Calm should only do good for Paul George and Kawhi Leonard. (Harry How / Getty Images)
7. Los Angeles Clippers
Kawhi Leonard missed almost the entire 2017/18 season with his quadriceps tendinopathy, played it through in an exhausting playoff run in 2019 and continued to rest back to back during this season. Likewise, his all-star wing partner Paul George returned from out-of-season duel shoulder surgery after twelve games this season, missed another 10 games with a thigh injury in January, and played with a minute limit for most of the season. A bonus low season should only be good for both sick stars.
6. Boston Celtics
Kemba Walker rested in the weeks leading up to the break, which may have been a chronic problem with the left knee, drained it off, and received an injection to reduce the swelling, but he says it is "okay". The foot injury Gordon Hayward suffered at the start of the 2018/19 season was still on fire during that season and cost him games in December and February, but he says it "feels good" with calm. He had just returned from a knee bruise just before the break. And Jaylen Brown has reportedly had no lasting effects from the thigh injury that has cost him the last four games before the shutdown. All three are critical to Boston’s success.
5. Los Angeles Lakers
Earlier this season, Anthony Davis discussed the persistent shoulder problems that have plagued him since arriving in Los Angeles and conceded, "There is never a piece that I don't feel." He played it through in February when his shoulder remained on the injury report, but the pause forced him to calm down.
The Lakers launch center, JaVale McGee, is more urgent in a broader context and has asthma. Last year he had pneumonia, which could be of great concern during the coronavirus pandemic. However, McGee recently shook off concerns and expressed his desire to play.
4. Milwaukee Bucks
MVP favorite Giannis Antetokounmpo emerged from an injury fear with a slight knee sprain just before the shutdown. He missed the last two games before the break of the season, leading to Milwaukee's first straight loss. Antetokounmpo expects to be completely healthy when preparing a # 1 seed.
3. Memphis Grizzlies
Neither Jaren Jackson Jr. nor Brandon Clarke have played against quad and knee injuries since the end of February, but both were nearing a return when the season was interrupted. The same applies to Justise Winslow, whose back injury has cost him one game since the beginning of December and which was awarded to the Grizzlies on the reporting date in February. Grayson Allen also has an exterior shot of the return from an alleged hip injury at the end of the season. Any of them could help Memphis keep the eighth seed.
2. Philadelphia 76ers
The often injured and conditioned Joel Embiid returned after a two-week absence and played 27 minutes on his rehabilitated shoulder to take a break. Previously, he had missed the time due to ankle, hip, knee and hand injuries and limited his minute average to 30 per game. Ben Simmons was also excluded for at least another three weeks on the day the season ended due to a back injury.
Both are expected to be healthy, which they hope to pursue in Orlando. Whether this will solve the chemical problems that the Sixers had with the sixth seed the last time they shared the dish is another question.
Jusuf Nurkic will make his season debut for the blazers in Orlando. (Abbie Parr / Getty Images)
1. Portland Trail Blazer
No team will get a bigger boost than the blazers, which have the entire season without starting center Jusuf Nurkic, who broke his leg at the end of last season, and all but three games without starting striker Zach Collins, who suffered a heavy blow, received shoulder injury earlier this season. Starting wing Rodney Hood will not be back from the end-of-season Achilles injury he suffered in early December, but both Nurkic and Collins are expected to line up as defending Western Conference finalists.
This is not welcome news for a Blazers team that is currently capable of challenging Memphis for the eighth and final playoff starting position. The interruption can well mean the difference between a lottery place and Portland's seventh consecutive playoff appearance, which is a completely different sliding door scenario for another day.
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Ben Rohrbach is an employee at Yahoo Sports. Do you have a tip? Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter! Follow @brohrbach
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