NBA restart preview: Team-by-team capsules of what you need to know
The 2019-20 season resumes Thursday with a pair of games, including the Lakers vs. the Clippers in the nightcap.
Here is a team-by-team look at the 22 clubs that will resume play with seeding games before 16 advance to the playoffs in late August.
1. LAKERS (49-14)
Remember these guys? Anthony Davis (26.7 ppg, 9.4 rpg), LeBron James (10.6 apg).
What do you need to know? The Lakers were the best team in the West nearly wire-to-wire this season, and the four-month break to get James and Davis back at 100% will help. Losing Avery Bradley (personal reasons) and Rajon Rondo (thumb injury, return to be determined) will impact the Lakers’ depth, but new faces Dion Waiters and JR Smith to pair with Alex Caruso and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope still leave the Lakers with a lot of options. No two players in the league are as dynamic as James and Davis combined, and as long as they’re on the court, the Lakers should be too.
Schedule: 7/30 vs. CLIPPERS 6 p.m. Spectrum SportsNet, TNT; 8/1 vs. TOR 5:30 p.m. Spectrum SportsNet, ESPN; 8/3 vs. UTAH 6 p.m. Spectrum SportsNet, ESPN; 8/5 vs. OKC 3:30 p.m. Spectrum SportsNet, ESPN;
8/6 vs. HOU 6 p.m. Spectrum SportsNet, TNT; 8/8 vs. IND 3 p.m. Spectrum SportsNet, TNT; 8/10 vs. DEN 6 p.m. Spectrum SportsNet, TNT; 8/13 vs. SAC TBD, Spectrum SportsNet.
2. CLIPPERS (44-20)
Remember these guys? Kawhi Leonard (26.9 ppg, 7.3 rpg), Lou Williams (5.7 apg).
What do you need to know? Led by Leonard and Paul George, the Clippers are built for the playoffs. They have depth, veterans who have played big games, young players who have been up for the challenge in big moments. But questions persist. They still haven’t been whole in Orlando (and thanks to some delicious wings, Williams will miss some games). The Clippers have taken the big-picture approach all season. As the time gets shorter, can they find a new gear of urgency?
Schedule: 7/30 vs. LAKERS 6 p.m. Prime Ticket, TNT; 8/1 vs. NOLA 3 p.m. Prime Ticket, ESPN; 8/4 vs. PHX 1 p.m. Prime Ticket, NBA TV; 8/6 vs. DAL 3:30 p.m. Prime Ticket, TNT; 8/8 vs. POR 10 a.m. Prime Ticket, TNT;
8/9 vs. BRK 6 p.m. Prime Ticket, NBA TV; 8/12 vs. DEN 6 p.m. Prime Ticket, ESPN; 8/14 vs. OKC TBD, Prime Ticket.
3. Denver Nuggets (43-22)
Remember this guy? Nikola Jokic (20.2 ppg, 10.2 rpg, 6.9 apg).
What do you need to know? Jokic has appeared to recover from the coronavirus issues that kept him from initially traveling to Orlando with the rest of his team. He wasn’t the only player in the Denver rotation to deal with the virus — forcing the Nuggets to look at some other players like rookie Bol Bol. The Nuggets have a lot of depth and will be a tough out no matter who they run into in the West. The big question: Is there a team that home-court advantage meant more to than Denver, who plays a mile above sea level?
Schedule: 8/1 vs. MIA 10 a.m. ESPN; 8/3 vs. OKC 1 p.m. NBA TV; 8/5 vs. SAS 1 p.m.; 8/6 vs. POR 5 p.m.; 8/8 vs. UTAH 12:30 p.m. TNT; 8/10 vs. LAKERS 6 p.m. TNT; 8/12 vs. CLIPPERS 6 p.m. ESPN; 8/14 vs. TOR TBD.
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4. Utah Jazz (41-23)
Remember these guys? Donovan Mitchell (24.2 ppg), Rudy Gobert (13.7 rpg), Joe Ingles (5.2 apg).
What do you need to know? A lot has changed since we last saw the Jazz play a game. They’ve lost 20-point scorer Bojan Bogdanovic to injury and have been forced to rebuild trust between their two best players — Mitchell and Gobert — who happened to be two of the first players in the NBA infected with the coronavirus. There was a time when the Jazz were a feared first-round matchup, and while they still control tempo, they’re not as scary as they once were.
Schedule: 7/30 vs. NOLA 3:30 p.m. TNT; 8/1 vs. OKC 12:30 p.m. ESPN; 8/3 vs. LAKERS 6 p.m. ESPN; 8/5 vs. MEM 11:30 a.m.; 8/7 vs. SAS 10 a.m.; 8/8 vs. DEN 12:30 p.m. TNT; 8/10 vs. DAL 12 p.m. NBA TV; 8/13 vs. SAS TBD.
5. Oklahoma City Thunder (40-24)
Remember these guys? Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (19.3 ppg), Steven Adams (9.4 rpg), Chris Paul (6.8 apg).
What do you need to know? The ghosts of Clippers past have been a terrific story this season, led by Paul, who is back to doing his best work as the mastermind of a team. With Gilgeous-Alexander and Danilo Gallinari — players acquired in the Paul George trade — having big years, the Thunder are in as good of a position as they were with George and Westbrook. Andre Roberson, once one of the best defensive wings in the NBA, is finally back on the court, giving them another boost.
Schedule: 8/1 vs. UTAH 12:30 p.m. ESPN; 8/3 vs. DEN 1 p.m. NBA TV; 8/5 vs. LAKERS 3:30 p.m. ESPN; 8/7 vs. MEM 1 p.m. NBA TV; 8/9 vs. WAS 9:30 a.m,; 8/10 vs. PHX 11:30 a.m.; 8/12 vs. MIA 5 p.m.; 8/14 vs. CLIPPERS TBD.
6. Houston Rockets (40-24)
Remember these guys? James Harden (34.4 ppg, 7.4 apg), Russell Westbrook (8.0 rpg).
What do you need to know? The Rockets’ great experiment — playing without a traditional big man — had mixed results during its 14-game opening run. Yeah, they beat the Lakers in L.A., Boston twice and Memphis on their way to going 8-6. But they lost to the Jazz, the Clippers, Orlando and, gulp, New York. With Harden and Westbrook back with the team after delayed entry into the bubble, they’ve got top-line talent. They also have an unproven plan.
Schedule: 7/31 vs. DAL 6 p.m. ESPN; 8/2 vs. MIL 5:30 p.m. ABC; 8/4 vs. POR 6 p.m. TNT; 8/6 vs. LAKERS 6 p.m. TNT; 8/9 vs. SAC 5 p.m.; 8/11 vs. SAS 11 a.m. NBA TV; 8/12 vs. IND 1 p.m. NBA TV; 8/14 vs. PHI TBD.
7. Dallas Mavericks (40-27)
Remember these guys? Luka Doncic (28.7 ppg, 8.7 apg), Kristaps Porzingis (8.7 apg).
What do you need to know? Advanced stats favor the Mavericks more than their record suggests. As things currently stand, they’re set to face the Clippers in the first round — a no-doubt difficult matchup. When you talk about the best one-two punches in Orlando, Doncic and Porzingis can’t be too far out of the conversation. The Mavericks may have the best shooter in the bubble — Seth Curry — and they’ve got a championship coach. They’re a sleeper.
Schedule: 7/31 vs. HOU 6 p.m. ESPN; 8/2 vs. PHX 6 p.m.; 8/4 vs. SAC 11:30 a.m.; 8/6 vs. CLIPPERS 3:30 p.m. TNT; 8/8 vs. MIL 5:30 p.m. ESPN; 8/10 vs. UTA Noon. NBA TV; 8/11 vs. POR 2 p.m.; 8/13 vs. PHX 4 p.m.
8. Memphis Grizzlies (32-33)
Remember these guys? Ja Morant (17.6 ppg, 6.9 apg), Jonas Valanciunas (11.2 rpg).
What do you need to know? If you think Memphis went to Orlando simply to be the hurdle the Pelicans conquer, you’re mistaken. Led by the supremely confident Morant, a young prototypical big in Jaren Jackson Jr. and tons of role players, the Grizzlies have the goods to survive and make the playoffs. Losing Justise Winslow to a hip injury is a disappointment, but the Grizzlies are one of the biggest surprises this season and should continue to prove people wrong.
Schedule: 7/31 vs. POR 1 p.m. NBA TV; 8/2 vs. SAS 1 p.m.; 8/3 vs. NOLA 3:30 p.m. ESPN; 8/5 vs. UTA 11:30 a.m.; 8/7 vs. OKC 1 p.m. NBA TV; 8/9 vs. TOR 11 a.m.; 8/11 vs. BOS 3:30 p.m. TNT; 8/13 vs. MIL TBD TNT.
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9. Portland Trail Blazers (29-37)
Remember these guys? Damian Lillard (28.9 ppg, 7.8 asg), Hassan Whiteside (14.2 rpg).
What do you need to know? It’d be foolish to count out Portland. The pandemic break gave the Trail Blazers time to get two massive pieces healthy in the frontcourt — center Jusuf Nurkic and forward Zach Collins. Add those two players with Lillard and C.J. McCollum, one of the best guard duos in the NBA, and a slimmed-down Carmelo Anthony, and Portland is in key position to upend the New Orleans hype and fight with Memphis in a play-in tournament.
Schedule: 7/31 vs. MEM 1 p.m. NBA TV; 8/2 vs. BOS 12:30 p.m. ABC; 8/4 vs. HOU 6 p.m. TNT; 8/6 vs. DEN 5 p.m.; 8/8 vs. CLIPPERS 10 a.m. TNT; 8/9 vs. PHI 3:30 p.m. NBA TV; 8/11 vs. DAL 2 p.m.; 8/13 vs. BRK TBD.
10. New Orleans Pelicans (28-36)
Remember these guys? Brandon Ingram (24.3 ppg), Derrick Favors (9.9 rpg), Lonzo Ball (7.0 apg).
What do you need to know? The Pelicans are the presumed favorites to make it out of the cluster of teams chasing Memphis for the eighth spot in the West. They have tons of talent, loads of depth and the little-hyped rookie Zion Williamson. In 19 games, Williamson looked like an unstoppable force. He’s apparently healthy, and after leaving campus for a family matter, should be on the court soon as New Orleans tries to line up a first-round playoff series with the Lakers.
Schedule: 7/30 vs. UTA 3:30 p.m. TNT; 8/1 vs. CLIPPERS 3 p.m. ESPN; 8/3 vs. MEM 3:30 p.m. ESPN; 8/6 vs. SAC 10:30 a.m. NBA TV; 8/7 vs. WAS 5 p.m.; 8/9 vs. SAS Noon ABC; 8/11 vs. SAC 6 p.m. TNT; 8/13 vs. ORL TBD.
11. Sacramento Kings (28-36)
Remember these guys? De’Aaron Fox (20.4 ppg, 6.8 apg), Richaun Holmes (8.3 rpg).
What do you need to know? Could the Kings be a spoiler in Orlando? They don’t have a superstar like Portland or the depth of New Orleans, but they have young talent who could thrive in Orlando’s basketball-only environment. Fox has returned from an ankle injury, and reinforcements are on the way once Harrison Barnes gets back in shape after testing positive for coronavirus. Luke Walton’s team survived a slow start to the season and could be a surprise in the restart.
Schedule: 7/31 vs. SAS 5 p.m.; 8/2 vs. ORL 3 p.m.; 8/4 vs. DAL 11:30 a.m.; 8/6 vs. NOLA 10:30 a.m. NBA TV; 8/7 vs. BRK 2 p.m.; 8/9 vs. HOU 5 p.m.; 8/11 vs. NOLA 6 p.m. TNT; 8/13 vs. LAL TBD.
12. San Antonio Spurs (27-36)
Remember these guys? DeMar DeRozan (22.2 ppg, 5.6 apg), Dejounte Murray (5.8 rpg).
What do you need to know? You’re witnessing history when you watch these Spurs, who seem destined to miss their first playoffs since 1997. Without LaMarcus Aldridge, who had season-ending surgery during the pandemic shutdown, the Spurs probably don’t have the talent to outlast the other teams in the West race. San Antonio should use the time to settle what their backcourt looks like in the future, with Murray, Derrick White and Lonnie Walker IV all in the mix.
Schedule: 7/31 vs. SAC 5 p.m.; 8/2 vs. MEM 1 p.m.; 8/3 vs. PHI 5 p.m.; 8/5 vs. DEN 1 p.m.; 8/7 vs. UTA 10 a.m.; 8/9 vs. NOLA 12 p.m., ABC; 8/11 vs. HOU 11 a.m., NBA TV; 8/13 vs. UTA TBD.
13. Phoenix Suns (26-39)
Remember these guys? Devin Booker (26.1 ppg), Deandre Ayton (12.0 rpg), Ricky Rubio (8.9 apg).
What do you need to know? The Suns don’t really need to be in Orlando. They’re six games behind eighth-place Memphis in the loss column with four teams between them. If the Suns push with the roster they have — with Booker, Ayton and Rubio leading them — they should be more competitive than Eastern teams fighting for playoff position. Coach Monty Williams said his team isn’t going to Disney to ride Space Mountain. That’s good. They might not be in town long enough.
Schedule: 7/31 vs. WAS 1 p.m.; 8/2 vs. DAL 6 p.m.; 8/4 vs. CLIPPERS 1 p.m. NBA TV; 8/6 vs. IND 1 p.m.; 8/8 vs. MIA 4:30 p.m.; 8/10 vs. OKC 11:30 a.m.; 8/11 vs. PHI 1:30 p.m.; 8/13 vs. DAL TBD.
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1. Milwaukee Bucks (53-12)
Remember this guy? Giannis Antetokounmpo (29.6 ppg, 13.7 rpg, 5.8 apg).
What do you need to know? The Bucks are as good as advertised thanks to Antetokounmpo, the likely MVP (and defensive player of the year). They’re slowly coming together with players like Eric Bledsoe and Pat Connaughton returning from the coronavirus. They’ll have serious challengers in the East — Philadelphia, Boston and Toronto — but it’s clear that the Bucks are the team being chased.
Schedule: 7/31 vs. BOS 3:30 p.m. ESPN; 8/2 vs. HOU 5:30 p.m. ABC; 8/4 vs. BRK 10:30 a.m. NBA TV; 8/6 vs. MIA 1 p.m. TNT; 8/8 vs. DAL 5:30 p.m. ESPN; 8/10 vs. TOR 3:30 p.m. ESPN; 8/11 vs. WAS 6 p.m.; 8/13 vs. MEM TBD.
2. Toronto Raptors (46-18)
Remember these guys? Pascal Siakam (23.6 ppg), Serge Ibaka (8.3 rpg), Kyle Lowry (7.7 apg).
What do you need to know? Because of Canadian travel restrictions, the Raptors have been training in Florida longer than any team (save for those that call the state their home). It’s just been another challenge for a team that’s handled everything that’s been in front of them the last two seasons. The defending champions have thrived without Kawhi Leonard, and it might be foolish to think they wouldn’t thrive in a weird situation like the Orlando bubble.
Schedule: 8/1 vs. LAKERS 5:30 p.m. ESPN; 8/3 vs. MIA 10:30 a.m. NBA TV; 8/5 vs. ORL 5 p.m.; 8/7 vs. BOS 6 p.m. TNT; 8/9 vs. MEM 11 a.m.; 8/10 vs. MIL 3:30 p.m. ESPN; 8/12 vs. PHI 3:30 p.m. ESPN; 8/14 vs. DEN TBD.
3. Boston Celtics (43-21)
Remember these guys? Jayson Tatum (23.6 ppg), Enes Kanter (7.7 rpg), Kemba Walker (4.9 apg).
What do you need to know? This looks like a team that has a shot at the title. Jayson Tatum was budding into a superstar the month before the season shutdown, Kemba Walker and Jaylen Brown are big-time talents, and the team has a great coach and plenty of depth. Walker’s knee has slowed him during the restart, but he’s back on the court, and the Celtics look like a real contender.
Schedule: 7/31 vs. MIL 3:30 p.m. ESPN; 8/2 vs. POR 12:30 p.m. ABC; 8/4 vs. MIA 3:30 p.m. TNT; 8/5 vs. BRK 6 p.m. ESPN; 8/7 vs. TOR 6 p.m.; 8/9 vs. ORL 2 p.m.; 8/11 vs. MEM 3:30 p.m.; 8/13 vs. WAS TBD.
4. Miami Heat (41-24)
Remember these guys? Jimmy Butler (20.2 ppg, 6.1 apg), Bam Adebayo (10.5 rpg).
What do you need to know? In a lot of ways the Heat are built for the tests of the bubble. They’re full of mental toughness, have a good balance between veteran players and young rising stars, and pretty good depth. The biggest advantage might be the way the team mirrors Butler‘s mentality. The big question, though, is whether the Heat, when at their best, can topple the other contenders in the East on their best days. Most would say no.
Schedule: 8/1 vs. DEN 10 a.m. ESPN; 8/3 vs. TOR 10:30 a.m. NBA TV; 8/4 vs. BOS 3:30 p.m. TNT; 8/6 vs. MIL 1 p.m. TNT; 8/8 vs. PHX 4:30 p.m; 8/10 vs. IND 5 p.m.; 8/12 vs. OKC 5 p.m.; 8/14 vs. IND TBD.
5. Indiana Pacers (39-26)
Remember these guys? T.J. Warren (18.7 ppg), Myles Turner (6.5 rpg), Malcolm Brogdon (7.1 apg).
What do you need to know? The Pacers got good news — Victor Oladipo is going to play, giving them their best player. The Pacers got bad news — Domantas Sabonis, their second-best player — had to leave Orlando to get an injured foot treated. His status is unknown. The Pacers have a lot of depth, they play hard and nobody really thinks much of them as a contender. Perhaps Oladipo’s return boosts them in a series win.
Schedule: 8/1 vs. PHI 4 p.m.; 8/3 vs. WAS 1 p.m.; 8/4 vs. ORL 3 p.m.; 8/6 vs. PHX 1 p.m.; 8/8 vs. LAKERS 3 p.m. TNT; 8/10 vs. MIA 5 p.m.; 8/12 vs. HOU 1 p.m. NBA TV; 8/14 vs. MIA TBD.
Tests of 344 NBA players conducted over the past nine days have returned zero positive results.
6. Philadelphia 76ers (39-26)
Remember these guys? Joel Embiid (23.4 ppg, 11.8 rpg), Ben Simmons (8.2 apg).
What do you need to know? After the 76ers underperformed in the first part of the season, coach Brett Brown is moving veteran big man Al Horford to the bench and guard Shake Milton to the starting lineup, pushing Ben Simmons to power forward. The lineup hadn’t played a single minute together in the regular season, but Brown seems committed to change. Philadelphia has the talent to win it all if they have the right formula.
Schedule: 8/1 vs. IND 4 p.m.; 8/3 vs. SAS 5 p.m.; 8/5 vs. WAS 1 p.m. NBA TV; 8/7 vs. ORL 3:30 p.m. TNT; 8/9 vs. POR 3:30 p.m. NBA TV; 8/11 vs. PHX 1:30 p.m.; 8/12 vs. TOR 3:30 p.m. ESPN; 8/14 vs. HOU TBD.
7. Brooklyn Nets (30-34)
Remember these guys? Caris LeVert (17.7 ppg, 4.1 apg), Jarrett Allen (9.5 rpg).
What do you need to know? Led by Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving, Spencer Dinwiddie, Wilson Chandler and DeAndre Jordan, the Nets have the best starting five in the NBA — that isn’t playing in Orlando. A combination of injuries and coronavirus concerns forced the Nets have hto add all kinds of players to their roster. It’s fun that Jamal Crawford has a home in the NBA, but it’s hard to imagine Brooklyn getting out of the first round.
Schedule: 7/31 vs. ORL 11:30 a.m.; 8/2 vs. WAS 11 a.m.; 8/4 vs. MIL 10:30 a.m. NBA TV; 8/5 vs. BOS 6 p.m. ESPN; 8/7 vs. SAC 2 p.m.; 8/9 vs. CLIPPERS 6 p.m. NBA TV; 8/11 vs. ORL 10 a.m.; 8/13 vs. POR TBD.
8. Orlando Magic (30-35)
Remember these guys? Nikola Vucevic (19.5 ppg, 11.0 rpg), Markelle Fultz (5.2 apg).
What do you need to know? The Magic are 5 1/2 games ahead of Washington and need to keep the Wizards from getting within four to clinch the final playoff spot in the East. There’s talent there — the most promising is Fultz, who still hasn’t played since rejoining the team after a personal matter. They play really hard, especially on the defensive end where coach Steve Clifford is a maestro.
Schedule: 7/31 vs. BRK 11:30 a.m.; 8/2 vs. SAC 3 p.m. NBA TV; 8/4 vs. IND 3 p.m.; 8/5 vs. TOR 5 p.m.; 8/7 vs. PHI 3:30 TNT; 8/9 vs. BOS 2 p.m.; 8/11 vs. BRK 10 a.m.; 8/13 vs. NOLA TBD.
9. Washington Wizards (24-40)
Remember these guys? Rui Hachimura (13.4 ppg), Thomas Bryant (6.8 rpg), Ish Smith (4.8 apg).
What do I need to know? Not a lot. The NBA surprised people by including the Wizards in their reboot plans, and Washington has rewarded them by heading to Orlando without its three best players. Guard John Wall is still rehabbing from an Achilles tendon injury, All-Star and leading scorer Bradley Beal won’t play because of a sore shoulder, and sharp-shooting forward Davis Bertans won’t play because it could jeopardize the sizable free-agent contract he’s in line to receive this offseason. Good news for L.A. basketball fans, though. Moritz Wagner, Isaac Bonga and Jerome Robinson should all get plenty of shots.
Schedule: 7/31 vs. PHX 1 p.m.; 8/2 vs. BRK 11 a.m.; 8/3 vs. IND 1 p.m.; 8/5 vs. PHI 1 p.m. NBATV; 8/7 vs. NOLA 5 p.m.; 8/9 vs. OKC 9:30 a.m.; 8/11 vs. MIL 6 p.m.; 8/13 vs. BOS TBD.
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