NBA

10 Burning Questions for the NBA Restart

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ESPN recently published a pre-bubble Power Rankings. While the top 10 aren’t much of a surprise, each team still has questions left to answer.

Will small ball work in Houston? Can the Lakers find the optimal lineup? Is Toronto in contention to stop Milwaukee again?

Here’s a look into 10 key questions going into Orlando.

Who will the Lakers finish games with?

In the regular season, the Lakers had 101 clutch minutes with LeBron James and Anthony Davis in the lineup. Frank Vogel experimented with Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Danny Green, Alex Caruso, Kyle Kuzma, Rajon Rondo and Avery Bradley alongside the two. Bradley will not be with the Lakers in Orlando, and Rondo’s status is up in the air. Still, ESPN experts maintain faith in the two superstars regardless of who plays with them. More than 64% of respondents expressed at least 80 percent confidence that the Lakers would be fine at the end of the games.

Will Milwaukee’s regular-season dominance translate?

When Giannis Antetokounmpo was on the floor this season, the Bucks had a net rating of +16.1. When he was resting, Mike Budenholzer’s team was still respectable, but saw a steep drop to +4.1. Giannis is an incredible talent but was stymied in last year’s playoffs against the Raptors. In last year’s series, Milwaukee was simply crushed without Giannis, posting a -10.3 net rating. Eric Bledsoe and Khris Middleton have not yet proven their real stability in the playoffs yet.

Nevertheless, ESPN experts expressed confidence in Antetokounmpo’s entourage in Milwaukee, putting them first in the power rankings.

How will Los Angeles Clippers reorganize?

Having dealt with injuries and new faces, the Clippers spent most of this season searching for a rhythm. Now the Clippers need to find a way to get back to where they left off before the four-month break. The five-man lineup consisting of Leonard, George, Lou Williams, Montrezl Harrell, and Marcus Morris, spent only 12 minutes together, but rated well. The Clippers used that matchup down the stretch against the Lakers on March 8.

The Los Angeles Clippers are a particularly popular subject in the Nordics and Norway. The only Norwegian player in NBA history, Torgeir Bryn, played for the Clippers. Even though he was not very successful, it was a huge achievement for a player from Norway. Even now his popularity is still present and can be felt particularly in the gambling industry. Numerous Norwegian betting rooms offer particular bonus options that have Bryn’s name, and a lot of people are placing their bet on the Los Angeles Clippers.

Will Houston’s small ball work?

Currently, the only center on the Rockets’ roster is Tyson Chandler. When the Rockets traded Clint Capela to Atlanta in February, the switch to the small ball quickly yielded results. Soon after, though, it led to a series of defeats.

ESPN experts believe neither in the complete failure of Houston’s strategy nor in its overwhelming success. Most predict that the small ball Rockets are more likely to produce results than not. Houston is fifth in their power rankings.

How will thinner Jokic perform?

Nikola Jokic entered the bubble late after testing positive for COVID-19. General manager Nuggets Calvin Booth said that the team never doubted return of his leader from Serbia. Jokic has passed several negative tests for COVID-19 in recent weeks.

The main question is how effective Jokic will be after the Serb losing 18 kg during the hiatus.

Jokic’s weight had served as a weapon and a hinderance in the past, so it will be interesting to see how he performes. Many ESPN experts expressed doubts whether the Denver leader would be just as effective, and had them eighth in the rankings.

Can Kemba Walker lead his team in the playoffs?

Walker missed five games after the All-Star Break due to knee ailments. He played in four games before the hiatus, but he wasn’t himself. Boston’s playmaker scored more than 20 points only once and shot less than 30% in three of the four games.

Walker’s playoff experience is limited to only 11 games. He has yet to win a postseason series, despite posting respectable numbers of 21.5 points, 3.3 rebounds, 4.7 assists, and 39% of shooting.

Most ESPN experts still express confidence in Walker’s ability to be effective for Boston in the playoffs, while others prefer a wait-and-see approach. The Celtics are sixth in the rankings.

What is Miami’s defensive potential?

Erik Spoelstra has two elite defenders on his hands in Jimmy Butler and Bam Adebayo. At the same time, during the most part of the season, the Heat were not considered as a real contender for the title. Can this team change its status in the playoffs?

ESPN experts were not unanimous in assessing the protective potential of Miami. Butler and the company in the regular season were only in the 14th defensive rating. They are ninth in ESPN’s rankings.

What is the Doncic-Porzingis duo capable of?

Luka Doncic and Kristaps Porzingis will make their playoff debuts in Orlando. In the regular season, Doncic and Porzingis posted a +6.7 net rating. The Dallas stars ranked 37th out of 146 NBA duos who played together for at least 1000 minutes.

Only a few ESPN experts are predicting a failure in the playoffs for Doncic and Porzingis. Most expressed little optimism that the duo will find a way to achieve maximum efficiency in their playoffs. ESPN has them 10th in their rankings.

How competitive will the Simmons-Embiid-Horford trio be?

In 429 minutes played, Ben Simmons, Joel Embiid, and Al Horford posted average numbers that clearly did not correspond to their individual stellar status. The trio of leaders in Philadelphia had a negative net rating. This was largely due to their excellent defense and terrible offense.

The ESPN group was divided on the Sixers. They ranked seventh in the power rankings.

Can Toronto stop Milwaukee again?

Toronto defeated Milwaukee in the playoffs of last season, but this year the Raptors will have to deal with Giannis Antetokounmpo without the NBA Finals MVP Kawhi Leonard. According to the ESPN Basketball Power Index forecast, the likelihood of a meeting between Milwaukee and Toronto in the Eastern Conference finals is 65.8%. Most ESPN experts do not really rate Raptors ability to repeat triumph in the game against the Bucks. Still, the Raptors are fourth in their power rankings.

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