The resumption of the 2019-20 season is fast approaching despite rising COVID-19 cases in Florida, and eyes will turn to the ground again before one of the most exciting playoffs should take place recently. Both teams in Los Angeles see the title with two superstars, while Milwaukee wants to secure both the Larry O’Brien Trophy and a long-term commitment from Giannis Antetokounmpo. When the Warriors dynasty is stopped, there is no shortage of competition for the next NBA champion.
The crossover dived into the The Eastern Conference playoffs on Wednesday rate the top player for each team. We will do the same with the Western Conference today, starting with an unlikely pair of tall men.
Los Angeles Lakers – Dwight Howard and JaVale McGee
Los Angeles’ biggest advantage over the competition could be its size. The Lakers have a forecourt led by LeBron James and Anthony Davis. And the Lakers can be really big when James Point Guard takes over. Enter Dwight Howard and JaVale McGee.
The center pair found a At home in Los Angeles, which thrives as inner giants while a group of other Western Conference rivals tries to take a small ball to the final. The Lakers outperform the teams by 8.7 points per 100 possessions if Howard and James share the word, and the lead remains constant at plus 5.7 points per possession when Howard teams up with Davis. McGee was equally effective with both James and Davis, allowing the great man of the Lakers’ All-NBA to outperform the four. Many initially assumed that Los Angeles would become small at crucial moments, and placed Davis with three wingmen and LeBron in the middle. The Lakers have taken a different path so far and brought their size to the best record in the West. If Howard and McGee continue their strong game in Orlando, this should be the formula during the playoffs.
Los Angeles Clippers – Paul George
It may be a symptom of his recent playoff mistakes, but it looks like we’ve underestimated Paul George in the past few seasons. Without teammate Kawhi Leonard, George may be the best two-way wing in the Western Conference, and the former Pacers striker has become a deadly shooter in recent years. Only four players have beaten more threes than George since 2015/16. Of the six players who have made 1,000 triples during that time, only Steph Curry has a better percentage. We know what the clippers will get in Leonard’s playoffs. When George is at his peak it is difficult not to call the Clippers favorites in the final.
Denver Nuggets – Jamal Murray
Assuming his rapid weight loss doesn’t hinder his game, we have a good idea of what to expect from Nikola Jokić in the postseason. The center of Denver has fully demonstrated its playoff chops last season with an average of 25.1 points, 13 rebounds and 8.4 assists per game at 50.6% shooting. But during Jokić seems to be a sure thing, the rest of the Denver side cast is anything but bankable.
The cast of the nuggets with non-Jokić contributors is led by Point Guard Jamal Murray, who remains a question mark in the playoffs. Murray is a true microwave scorer if he’s right. However, as we saw last season, his shaky shot selection can sometimes derail Denver. A disciplined and effective Murray could allow the nuggets to really compete with the two juggernauts of Los Angeles. If Murray’s 2019 playoffs repeat, Denver could see a first-round exit.
Utah Jazz – Mike Conley and Jordan Clarkson
We apologize again for the double dip, but Utah desperately needs one of its two point guards to shine alongside Donovan Mitchell in Orlando. Add Mike Conley marked one of the marquee movements of the summer, but the former Grizzlies Point Guard hasn’t brought Mitchell any relief in 2019-20. Conley shoots 40.5% off the field this season and generally looks a step slower than the past decade. It has evolved from being one of the most consistent point guards in the game to a real question mark.
Clarkson is the next man to have trouble with Conley, and despite his notable shortcomings, he could provide a much needed dose of immediate insult. Clarkson remains a pure goalscorer who can turn a game with a quarter of 15 points a la Lou Williams. Utah is in a difficult situation as Bojan Bogdanović is out for the season. The pair of point guards must catch the slack.
Oklahoma City Thunder – Dennis Schroder
Oklahoma City is likely to be an outsider in its first round, though it has a chance to fight against any non-Los Angeles team. And the way to victory in the first round is in his back yard. The trio of Chris Paul, Dennis Schroder and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander were deadly this season, outperforming the teams by 26.6 points per 100 possessions if they shared the word. Schroder was the catalyst for the dominant performance of the rear area. The former Hawks guard is dynamic in transition, shooting a career high of 38% this season out of three. Playing with Paul has allowed Schroder to lose much of his responsibility, an area in which he was neglected in Atlanta. If Schroder continues to thrive, Oklahoma City could sneak into the second round.
Houston Rockets – P. J. Tucker
The Houston Timeless Miracle is possibly the NBA’s most valuable role player, and Tucker has taken on even greater responsibility this season. This season, after trading with Clint Capela in Houston, the 35-year-old has taken over the duties of the start center and left Tucker to defend the leading great men of the Western Conference. Tucker was up to the task so far and his offensive arsenal continues to grow. He added a crafty flip shot in 2019-20 and remains solid behind the three-point line.
Harden and Westbrook make headlines, but few players anchor a defense like Tucker. He is really irreplaceable on the current Houston roster.
Dallas Mavericks – Kristaps Porziņģis
This may be Luka Dončić’s first appearance in the playoffs, but I trust the Slovenian sensation’s performance in Orlando will remain constant. Dončić has proven late in the game in his first two seasons, and he joined the NBA as the most successful European teenager in basketball history. Dallas’ playoff fate could be based on its other all-star.
For Kristaps Porziņģis, it was not a perfect year 2019-20. His season was marked by injury issues and an undefined role in Dallas’ offensive. But Porziņģis was heading in the right direction before the NBA restarted. From January 31 to March 6, he averaged 27.7 points and 11 rebounds per game, and his pick-and-pop dance with Dončić was on the rise. Porziņģis has the talent to take over a game with a 30-point breakout. If he is at his best, Western Conference favorites may be on alert.
Memphis Grizzlies – Yes Morant
We will not stray too far with this choice. Yes, it was Morant The runaway rookie of the year this season has become a potentially transcendent point guard over the next decade. Morant attacks the can with a Westbrook-like ferocity, and his sweater continues to be serious. Even more important than Morant’s ability is his mentality. He shines in pressure and has prevailed in his third NBA game against Kyrie Irving. Count on Morant to take on the challenge in a potential play-in against Portland and New Orleans.
Portland Trail Blazer – Jusuf Nurkić
Portland can benefit more than anyone from the NBA’s COVID-19 interruption and come to Orlando with two potentially effective color additives. Both Center Zach Collins and Jusuf Nurkić are expected to return to the Blazers for the rest of the season, giving the shaky forecourt a serious depth. Nurkić is the more tempting returnee and a potential replacement for Hassan Whiteside on the grid
The 25-year-old center had a career of 2018/19 with an average of 15.6 points and 10.4 rebounds when Portland won 53 games. Nurkić suffered a catastrophic leg injury in March 2019 and should return before the league’s suspension this March. Whiteside’s production has been statistically solid this season, though Portland was sad on the glass behind Nurkić’s replacement. A healthy and active Nurkić could certainly help Portland leave the grizzlies behind, as Whiteside sees less of a role.
New Orleans Pelicans – Zion Williamson
The NBA’s decision to include non-playoff teams in Orlando can certainly be partly attributed to the rookie phenomenon of the pelicans. Zion Williamson enters the NBA bubble with the chance to get New Orleans into the playoffs and (albeit wrongly) generate them some debates about rookie of the year. And don’t forget Zion’s chances of running a Pelicans playoff.
Williamson has averaged 23.6 points and 6.8 rebounds per game since his January 22 debut. His advanced metrics point to an aspiring superstar. The pelicans outperform the teams by 14 points per 100 possessions, with both Williamson and Jrue Holiday lying on the ground. The number increases to plus-15.2 points per 100 possessions when Williamson plays with Lonzo Ball. The Duke product is the tide that lifts all boats. If Williamson is in shape and ready for Orlando, the grizzlies could very well have left the playoffs.
Sacramento Kings – Buddy Hield
Sacramento is overlooked to a certain extent in the hunt for the last conference conference playoff spot. He is currently sitting with Memphis and Portland to reach number 9. But the kings have firepower to potentially make an unexpected run into the playoffs. De’Aaron Fox continued to grow as a leading man before the COVID-19 suspension, while Harrison Barnes and Bogdan Bogdanović gave the wing a good rating. Another guard is the true x-factor of kings.
Sacramento is 7-3 in games in which Buddy Hield scores more than 25 points and 2019-20 wins against Boston, Dallas and Houston behind strong nights from Hield. That doesn’t mean Hield is a franchise player or the $ 94 million extension he signed in October 2019 is really worth it. But he’s one of the game’s top microwave scorers.
We should note that Hield tested positive for COVID-19 on Wednesday, which cast doubt on its appearance in Orlando. If Hield is not available or is not entirely himself, Sacramento is effectively buried. The Kings must be Hield at 100% to reach the playoffs.
San Antonio Spurs – Dejounte Murray
San Antonio’s playoff chances worsened after those of LaMarcus Aldridge Shoulder surgery at the end of the season that seriously jeopardizes Gregg Popovich’s 22-year playoff series. Who could be the key to maintaining the postseason? Dejounte Murray is the most likely candidate.
The third-year guard disappointed to some extent in 2019-20 after signing a $ 64 million four-year extension in October. He hasn’t turned out to be a large-scale offensive force, and his outside shot remains a little shaky. But the potential at Murray is clear. It has a wingspan of 6 to 10 inches, although it is only 6 to 4 inches tall, and it has a unique can shift. The 2017/18 all-defense member must register the best eight-game course of his career for San Antonio to reach the playoffs.
Phoenix Suns – Deandre Ayton
Phoenix should be considered in the team’s “Thanks for Playing” bunch, though there’s a tiny chance of running into the playoffs when both offensive stars are shining in full effect. We should expect a solid performance from Devin Booker, who has emerged as one of the NBA’s top scorers. Deandre Ayton’s performance is less bankable.
As a rookie, Ayton posted historically efficient figures and continued to demonstrate his impressive offensive arsenal in the second year. The Arizona-based product has averaged 19 points and 12 rebounds per game since its season opener on December 17, shooting 54.8% of the field. At best, Ayton can be an elite central defender who breaks down the defense and creates a list of open shots for his teammates. Phoenix has to let it rain from beyond the bow to smell the playoffs at all. A strong performance from Ayton could trigger a storm.