NBA 2019-20 Season Restart Guide (Fantasy Basketball)
The NBA season is nearly upon us once again, and as the Association does its due diligence to ensure player safety amid a global pandemic, sports fans are chomping at the bit for an opportunity to watch meaningful basketball again. That chance will be here in just under four weeks, when we get the opening tip on July 30, headlined by matchups between the Lakers and Clippers and Jazz and Pelicans. If you’re wondering exactly how the Restart works, which teams are playing, notable matchups, and things to watch for, we’ve got you covered.
How Does it Work?
Location: “The Bubble” Walt Disney World, Orlando, FL
Number of teams: 22
Number of games: 8 per team
The Restart will consist of 22 teams, who will play an eight-game schedule to determine playoff seeding. The teams are determined by standings and record before the break, and only teams with a mathematical chance to make the playoffs will be participating. The teams consist of 13 from the Western Conference and nine from the Eastern Conference. The top eight seeds from each conference will make the playoffs, but if the 8 and 9 seeds are within four games of one another at the conclusion of the Orlando schedule, those teams will go head-to-head in a play-in tournament to determine who will advance. The tournament will be a two-game series in which the 9 seed must win both matchups to overtake the 8 seed. The playoffs will remain seven-game series for the Conference series and the Finals.
Seeding games: July 30 – August 14
Play-in Tournament (if needed): August 15-16
Playoffs First Round: Begins August 17
Conference Semifinals: Begin August 31
Conference Finals: Begin September 15
NBA Finals: Begin September 30, end no later than October 13
The Orlando bubble will feature only three usable courts between the 22 teams, with a maximum of seven games played per day and a deep sanitizing performed between games. To allow teams the ability to practice, the NBA has allowed teams to bring their practice courts with them to Orlando.
Laying down the practice floors!
— NBA (@NBA) July 2, 2020
Practices will be staggered to allow for sanitizing and social distancing. Teams will be required to stay within the bubble for the length of play, and COVID-19 testing will be performed regularly. If a player wants to leave the bubble, he is subject to stringent quarantine and testing before returning to play. This goes for any player who tests positive for COVID-19 while in the bubble and any family visiting, which will be allowed later.
Three hotels at Walt Disney World will be used to house the 22 teams. Masks will be required in all indoor areas except for individual rooms, but they will not be required for outside activities. Games will feature increased hygiene efforts which include sanitizing balls prior to tip-off, rules against spitting, licking fingers, and frequently taking mouth guards out. Select media members, camera operators, a PA announcer, and players from other teams will be allowed to watch the games, but outside fans will be prohibited.
The NBA has laid out rules for just about any aspect of life you could imagine for life inside the bubble, including practices and game play to food, and even recreation activities like ping pong (no doubles allowed) and cards. The NBA’s 113-page Safety Plan was sent to all participating teams, and it’s clear the Association is doing everything in its power to keep all players safe and healthy for the Restart.
|Team||Record||Games Back||Vegas Odds to Win Title|
|1. Milwaukee Bucks||53-12||–||+275|
|2. Toronto Raptors||46-18||6.5||+1700|
|3. Boston Celtics||43-21||9.5||+1500|
|4. Miami Heat||41-24||12.0||+4000|
|5. Indiana Pacers||39-26||14.0||+1250|
|6. Philadelphia 76ers||39-26||14.0||+2500|
|7. Brooklyn Nets||30-34||22.5||+15000|
|8. Orlando Magic||30-35||23.0||+7500|
|9. Washington Wizards||24-40||28.5||+100000|
Up 6.5 games over the No. 2 seed Toronto Raptors, Milwaukee has a pretty easy path to clinching the No. 1 seed in the East, and they can do it early. Two straight wins is all it would take to clinch, and the team could then opt to rest its starters in preparation for the playoffs. The only team in the league capable of catching the Bucks at that point would be the Lakers, but because all games will be played on neutral sites, overall seeding, record doesn’t matter. Toronto has a strong hold on the No. 2 seed, though the 3-6 seeds are only separated by 4.5 games.
The final two seeds will be fought over by the Nets, Magic, and Wiz, though Washington’s hopes of a playoff appearance are minimal, to say the least. The Wiz will have to win at least two more games than Brooklyn and/or Orlando to secure a postseason birth. Brooklyn’s outlook was one of hope and optimism prior to the break. As a team missing its superstars, the young core played cohesive team ball and exceeded expectations. Now, availability will be called into question for the final eight games. Even if Brooklyn snags a playoff berth, the first-round matchup with either Milwaukee or Toronto is sure to be a sweep.
|Team||Record||Games Back||Vegas Odds to Win Title|
|1. Los Angeles Lakers||49-14||–||+180|
|2. Los Angeles Clippers||44-20||5.5||+325|
|3. Denver Nuggets||43-22||7||+2200|
|4. Utah Jazz||41-23||8.5||+6000|
|5. Oklahoma City Thunder||40-24||9.5||+6000|
|6. Houston Rockets||40-24||9.5||+1200|
|7. Dallas Mavericks||40-27||11.0||+3500|
|8. Memphis Grizzlies||32-33||18.0||+50000|
|9. Portland Trail Blazers||29-37||21.5||+7500|
|10. New Orleans Pelicans||28-36||21.5||+5000|
|11. Sacramento Kings||28-36||21.5||+200000|
|12. San Antonio Spurs||27-36||22.0||+100000|
|13. Phoenix Suns||26-39||24.0||+50000|
The top seven seeds in the Western Conference are all guaranteed to make the playoffs, but the order will be determined in the eight-game Orlando bid. The Lakers have the best chance at securing the top seed, but the Clippers and Nuggets still have a chance to catch them. Nos. 2-6 are separated by just 4.0 games, so there could be significant movement among these five teams. The final playoff spot is a bit of a doozy as well.
No less than six teams will vie for the eighth seed, with Portland and New Orleans the favorites to overtake Memphis. The Kings, Spurs, and Suns have all been wildly inconsistent this season, and none of those teams have the same firepower as the Blazers or Pelicans. They have very remote chances of advancing to the playoffs.
The entire schedule has been released, and we can look ahead at some of the key matchups. A lot can change between the publishing of this article and July 30 (and beyond), but all things equal, we can peer into the crystal ball to preview some of the juiciest contests on the docket and their potential implications.
The NBA today released its complete game schedule and national television schedules for TNT, ESPN, ABC and NBA TV for the “seeding games,” which will be played July 30 – Aug. 14 to tip off the resumption of the 2019-20 season. #WholeNewGame https://t.co/REVq8KJti3
— NBA (@NBA) June 26, 2020
Lakers/Clippers: July 30
This is the only time these teams will meet for the rest of the regular season, and this is easily the best matchup of the Restart. These two teams have the best title odds of any Western Conference teams by a large margin, and this is expected to be a Western Conference Finals preview. The collective star power of LeBron James, Kawhi Leonard, Anthony Davis and Paul George is a must-watch, particularly when the two powerhouses grapple for power in a loaded Western Conference.
Rockets/Mavs: July 31
The 6th and 7th seeds will face off early in the schedule in what should be an exciting, high-scoring affair. These teams were the top in offensive rating before the break, with Dallas coming in at a whopping 115.8 and Houston right behind with 113.4. James Harden has reportedly taken his conditioning very seriously while out of action, and the time off should be a huge positive, especially given his tendency to wear down late in the year. Dallas should be also be at full health, with Luka Doncic and Kristaps Porzingis ready to go. Two potent offenses, mutliple superstars, oh – and two of the best stepbacks in the game. Get the popcorn ready.
The Luka Doncic stepback 🔥🔥pic.twitter.com/zwVGy23KcV
— Ballislife.com (@Ballislife) June 29, 2020
Celtics/Heat: August 4
These teams are separated by just 2.5 games heading into the Restart, so this matchup should have some seeding implications. These squads are top-10 in both offensive rating and net rating, and the clash should be nothing short of must-see TV when Jimmy Buckets takes on Kemba Walker and Co.
Clippers/Nuggets: August 12
It will be late in the Restart, but the 2 seed could still be up for grabs between these two teams who are just 1.5 games apart in the current standings. Though home-court advantage is not in the equation, the first-round matchup certainly is.
What to Watch For
Load management shouldn’t be in this team’s vernacular now. With only eight games remaining before the playoffs, the Clippers should have both Kawhi Leonard and Paul George available for every contest, unless they lock up a seed. A full-strength Clippers team is a tough out for any Western Conference opponent looking to get the edge in a best-of-seven series. Lou Williams is still undecided if he will re-join his team in Orlando, so be sure to keep an eye on his status.
Philly has had pretty noticeable home/road splits this season, as the team went 29-2 at home (best in the NBA) and just 10-24 on the road. These games will be played at neutral sites, but what it boils down to is: they’re not being played in Philly. The cavernous difference in home/road play should be a real concern. Team chemistry has admittedly been an issue as well, as acknowledged in a recent interview by Tobias Harris. The benefit of rest has surely been good for Ben Simmons (missed nine of final 10 games before the break), Joel Embiid (missed five of final six games before the break), and Josh Richardson (missed 17 games total), who are all reportedly at full health. Still, the extended layoff has probably not improved team chemistry. The 76ers have one of the most talented starting lineups in the league, but the underachieving bunch will have some issues to overcome in Orlando.
How will the Lakers run with other Western Conference teams who are far deeper? That starts with filling the void left by Avery Bradley, one of the better 3-and-D players in the NBA. The team started by signing J.R. Smith, but his role in the rotation is yet unclear. Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Rajon Rondo, and Alex Caruso make up the rest of a lackluster backcourt, led by point guard LeBron James, who is leading the league in assists in 2019-20 (10.6). Dwight Howard is also undecided about playing in Orlando, and his absence would likely mean an uptick in minutes for JaVale McGee. It’s tough to bet against a healthy James and Anthony Davis, but depth presents a real challenge.
Zion Williamson has reportedly cut weight and added muscle during the break, and a recent viral tweet seems to confirm that. In 19 games as a rookie, the No. 1 pick has averaged 23.6 points, 6.8 boards, and 2.2 assists in just under 30 minutes per contest. Playing on the heavier side to begin his career, it appears Williamson may be in the best shape he’s been in all season. New Orleans has dealt with injuries and absences from other players this season, and the break should be a positive for team health overall.
dude looks like a superhero. seriously pic.twitter.com/0wm7GHg2i0
— Tommy Beer (@TommyBeer) July 2, 2020
Already depleted by injuries to Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant, Brooklyn was a surprise this season thanks to the efforts of Caris LeVert, Spencer Dinwiddie, and Jarrett Allen among others. Now, Dinwiddie and DeAndre Jordan have tested positive for COVID-19, and while the former is undecided, Jordan will not play. Wilson Chandler is out too, and the roster is thinning out quickly. Brooklyn has a good chance to make the playoffs in a weak Eastern Conference, but a first-round exit would almost certainly be its fate.
Orlando has a great chance to make the playoffs on the heels of the Nets, who are dealing with a thinned-out roster. Orlando should be at full strength and may even get Jonathan Isaac back. What’s more, these games will be played in the Magic’s backyard, and even if there are no fans present, there’s no doubt this is some kind of home-court advantage. The Magic were on a three-game winning streak before the break, and there’s a real chance they can push for the 7 seed in the Eastern Conference.
Plain and simple, Indiana doesn’t have a closer. With the recent news that Victor Oladipo will miss the rest of the season, the team is left with Aaron Holiday to man the two, while Malcolm Brogdon, TJ Warren, Domantas Sabonis, and Myles Turner fill out the starting five. This team has been solid on defense and gotten the most out of Sabonis and Warren, racking up wins despite Oladipo’s absense for most of the year. At the end of the day, Indiana lacks a player who can take over a game late, and that lack of star power could be a problem in crunch time.
A struggling Blazers squad should get back two key components in the rotation in Jusuf Nurkic and Zach Collins when play resumes. Nurkic averaged 15.6 points and 10.4 rebounds when he last played in 2018-19, and Collins looked like he was ready to take the next step in his development before a shoulder injury derailed his 2019-20 season just three games in. The absence of Trevor Ariza means Carmelo Anthony could slide over to SF, and a starting lineup of Damian Lillard, CJ McCollum, Anthony, Zach Collins, and Hassan Whiteside seems likely, with Nurkic playing key minutes off the bench. That re-invigorated lineup should be able to hold its own in Orlando and make a legitimate playoff push.
Stotts on Jusuf Nurkic and Zach Collins: "They both look great." Nurk had been set to return days after the league shut down, and Stotts says Collins is 100 percent cleared with no limitations.
— Sean Highkin (@highkin) July 1, 2020
James Harden appeared to be wearing down before the break, as evidenced by his sharp drop-off in shooting as the season waned. Through the first 32 games of the season, he averaged 38.3 points while shooting 45.8 percent from the field and 37.8 percent from three. Over the final 17 games before the break, those numbers fell to 29.9 points on 41.7 percent shooting from the field and just 33.3 percent from three. He should have his legs back under him after a lengthy break, and by all accounts, he’s prioritized workouts and conditioning.
Who will step up? Rudy Gobert’s defense is legendary, and Donovan Mitchell is in the midst of his best season to date, but the team will be without Bojan Bogdanovic (wrist), who averaged a career-high 20.2 points on a scorching 41.4 percent from beyond the arc. Mike Conley should be in better shape than he was when he returned earlier in the year, though he’s failed to live up to expectations thus far since joining Utah. Jordan Clarkson has provided a nice scoring punch off the bench as Utah’s Sixth Man, but this team could face some real issues with scoring.