July 29, 2020, 6:23 pm
There are four teams from the Western Conference’s Pacific Division that will join the NBA restart in Walt Disney World, Orlando. The division is a dichotomy, comprised of two top-tier powerhouses and two teams that are long-shots to make it into the playoffs.
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Los Angeles Lakers
Record: 49-14 (Clinched Playoffs, currently 1st in Western Conference, 5.5 games ahead of 2nd place)
Restart Opponents: Clippers, Raptors, Jazz, Thunder, Rockets, Pacers, Nuggets, Kings
Official Roster for Restart: Kostas Antetokounmpo, Devontae Cacok, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Alex Caruso, Quinn Cook, Anthony Davis, Jared Dudley, Danny Green, Talen Horton-Tucker, Dwight Howard, LeBron James, Kyle Kuzma, JaVale McGee, Markieff Morris, Rajon Rondo, J.R. Smith, Dion Waiters
The Lakers are apex predators atop the Western Conference food chain, and with a five and a half game lead over the Clippers things are looking in their favor to hold onto that top seed after the dust settles from these eight games. Still, anything can happen.
Their formula is simple. The team brought together two of the best players in the world today in LeBron James and Anthony Davis and did their best to surround the duo with serviceable role-players who can keep those giant gears turning and churning out wins.
They have a fine mix of young guns and veterans to complement James and Davis, but will be without key guard Avery Bradley, who opted out of participating in the NBA restart, and Rajon Rondo, who suffered a broken right thumb in practice. Their absence from the restart will open things up for guys like Alex Caruso, who sacrificed attending his sister’s wedding just to remain in the Orlando bubble leading up to the restart, and possibly Quinn Cook, who has an outside chance at some solid PG minutes. Dion Waiters is coming on strong too after some nice scrimmage performances.
However, the Lakers will for the most part be leaning on the likes of Danny Green, JaVale McGee, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Kyle Kuzma (somehow) and Dwight Howard to round things out. Markieff Morris has played sparingly for them since joining the team but could see some a bit more run. They also signed J.R. Smith, for reasons, reasons like he might be able to help them in the playoffs, but likely won’t be much of an impact-guy over these eight games.
MVP candidate LeBron James has been the heart and soul of this team all season and somehow still put up an amazing performance pre-hiatus, posting averages of 25.7 PPG, 1.2 3PG, 7.9 RPG, 10.6 APG, 1.2 SPG and 0.5 BPG on .498 FG% and .697 FT%. He simply wins games at-will when he’s in the zone. However, with the top-seed virtually locked up, aside from a handful of useful tune-up games for the King, there’s a strong chance that the Lakers rest him at some point during the restart, preserving him for the playoffs.
James is not the only sit-risk. Oft-injured center Anthony Davis is also a potentially rested star towards the end. He’s managed to avoid any serious injuries in 2019-20 but is notorious for near-nightly trips to the locker room for minor nicks and bumps. Davis is the team’s anchor on defense, someone whom they cannot afford to lose for an extended amount of time, so expect both JaVale McGee and Dwight Howard to step into his shoes at some point.
Players to own in restart leagues: Anthony Davis, LeBron James, Danny Green, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope
Los Angeles Clippers
Record: 44-20 (Clinched Playoffs, currently 2nd in Western Conference)
Restart Opponents: Lakers, Pelicans, Suns, Mavs, Blazers, Nets, Nuggets, Thunder
Official Roster for Restart: Patrick Beverley, Amir Coffey, Paul George, JaMychal Green, Montrezl Harrell, Reggie Jackson, Kawhi Leonard, Terance Mann, Rodney McGruder, Marcus Morris Sr., Joakim Noah, Patrick Patterson, Landry Shamet, Lou Williams, Ivica Zubac
The Clippers are just one and a half games ahead of the upstart Nuggets, so they’ll have to bring their A game over the NBA restart.
The Clippers are arguably the league’s best two-way team, bringing intensity and efficacy on both ends of the floor, thanks to the duo of Kawhi Leonard and Paul George, both of whom are healthy and ready to play. That said, Leonard’s in for some pre-announced load management, so don’t expect him to play heavy minutes every game or to play in all eight games, for that matter. However, the team is stacked with talent and has managed to work around his load management throughout the season.
Despite a controversial “Wing-Gate” issue, multiple Sixth-Man-of-the-Year awardee Lou Williams should be good to go after missing his two games for quarantine. Fellow reserve, Montrezl Harrell is still out of the NBA bubble and is already expected to miss the Clippers’ first restart matchup, the Lakers, this Thursday. He’s been away from the team with an excused absence to attend to a personal matter, but is expected to be back with the Clippers soon. With Harrell out, we could be treated to a bit more of newly signed Joakim Noah, who is on a comeback trail. He has been impressing in his eye test over the scrimmage games he’s played in.
Patrick Beverley rejoined the team two days ago, but is considered “iffy” for Thursday as well, opening up some extra run for Reggie Jackson in the short-term. Again, it’s a good thing this team is crazy-deep.
Speaking of depth, the Clippers went after Marcus Morris Sr. hard during the season, just to have another forward who is a known competitor and is capable of keeping the floor spaced well. His fantasy value has taken a hit since moving over from the Knicks but could be a solid late-round play in restart-league drafts.
A player to watch is Landry Shamet, who drew some attention to himself in last season’s playoffs, so “Shamet playoff mode” might be something to enjoy. He can heat up at any moment and somehow take over a game.
Players to own in restart leagues: Kawhi Leonard, Paul George, Montrezl Harrell, Lou Williams, Patrick Beverley, Marcus Morris, Joakim Noah*
Record: 28-36 (Currently 11th in the Western Conference)
Restart Opponents: Spurs, Magic, Mavs, Pelicans, Nets, Rockets, Pelicans, Lakers
Official Roster for Restart: Marvin Bagley III, Harrison Barnes, Kent Bazemore, Nemanja Bjelica, Bogdan Bogdanovic, Corey Brewer, Yogi Ferrell, De’Aaron Fox, Harry Giles III, Kyle Guy, Buddy Hield, Richaun Holmes, Justin James, DaQuan Jeffries, Cory Joseph, Alex Len, Jabari Parker
Coach Luke Walton has his work cut out for him, trying to somehow make magic happen and get his Kings into a playoff berth in the West, or at the very least qualify for the play-in tournament, which is likely the more realistic goal.
That plan took a hit in recent weeks with news that the team will be without Marvin Bagley III for the restart after he suffered a right foot injury in the Orlando bubble. This means that the Kings will be turning once more to Nemanja Bjelica to handle most of the PF duties for them over these eight games. There will be spots where Harrison Barnes plays the four and guys like Jabari Parker and Harry Giles III will get to see some extra rotational frontcourt minutes as well, with Giles probably higher in the pecking order.
The good news is that Richaun Holmes is healthy and thanks to the extended hiatus, has recovered from the nagging injuries that limited him to appearing in 39 games season-to-date. He’s been the team’s best player in fantasy, posting top-40 value, thanks to his efficient shooting, defensive category contributions and low turnovers.
Buddy Hield tested positive for COVID-19 but was eventually cleared and has been playing relatively well over the Kings’ scrimmages, indicating that he’ll be able to play at a high level for the seeding games. Hield, whether as a starter or as a sixth man, has proven that he’s a high-impact player for the team. He’s averaging 19.8 PPG, 3.8 3PG, 4.8 RPG and 3.1 APG on .429 FG% and .855 FT%.
Speaking of scares, De’Aaron Fox suffered a badly sprained ankle while in the Orlando bubble but has thankfully been able to get back on the court and has been scrimmaging with the team recently. Despite the team’s depth at point guard, the talent drop-off if he’s sidelined is significant and a point-guard-by-committee approach is just not going to cut it.
An X-factor for the team will be Bogdan Bogdanovic, who has to take his game to another level in order for the Kings to be able to lean on him for reliable offense. He’s yet to put up big games on a consistent basis, so that’s something to watch out for in the restart, because the Kings really need him to kick things up a notch. Or two.
Players to own in restart leagues: Richaun Holmes, Buddy Hield, De’Aaron Fox, Nemanja Bjelica, Bogdan Bogdanovic, Harrison Barnes
Record: 26-39 (Currently 13th in the Western Conference)
Restart Opponents: Wizards, Mavs, Clippers, Pacers, Heat, Thunder, Sixers, Mavs
Official Roster for restart: Deandre Ayton, Aaron Baynes, Devin Booker, Mikal Bridges, Jevon Carter, Cheick Diallo, Ty Jerome, Cameron Johnson, Frank Kaminsky, Jalen Lecque, Elie Okobo, Kelly Oubre Jr., Ricky Rubio, Dario Saric
If we thought that the Kings were a long-shot to make it to the playoffs, well, the Suns are even a wilder shot in the dark, currently the lowest seeded team in the West (13th) participating in the NBA restart.
They were not excluded from the restart, because math, but will definitely be adding some spice that fans can enjoy watching thanks to their young lineup, headlined by Deandre Ayton and Devin Booker.
Kelly Oubre Jr. is with the team but his availability is still in question for the restart. Oubre is recovering from surgery to repair a torn meniscus in his knee. He’s not yet taking contact, so there’s a good chance that he misses a good part, if not the entire restart. The Suns will not want to risk Oubre’s long-term health, being their top breakout player this season with averages of 18.7 PPG, 1.9 3PG, 6.4 RPG, 1.5 APG, 1.3 SPG and 0.7 BPG on .452 FG% and .780 FT%.
With Oubre questionable at this point, expect the Suns to start Dario Saric and Mikal Bridges at the forward positions. Bridges, especially, will be a solid bet to produce mid-round value for his precious 3-and-D game.
Aaron Baynes, who performed admirably while Ayton was suspended during the season, is the latest Sun to rejoin the team. He’s going to be backing up Ayton now, so his fantasy appeal is down in the dumps.
A fringe player to look to if you need help in 3s is Cameron Johnson, who gets some good minutes off the bench.
Players to own in restart leagues: Deandre Ayton, Devin Booker, Ricky Rubio, Mikal Bridges, Dario Saric, Cam Johnson