July 27, 2020, 7:12 pm
Welcome back, folks! In this edition of the Hoop Ball Huddle’s NBA restart preview series, we’re going to take a look at the Eastern Conference’s Southeast Division. We have three teams to take a look at and they’re the Heat, Magic and the Wizards.
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Record: 41-24 (Clinched Playoffs, currently 4th in the Eastern Conference)
Restart Opponents: Nuggets, Raptors, Celtics, Bucks, Suns, Pacers, Thunder, Pacers
Official Roster for Restart: Bam Adebayo, Kyle Alexander, Jimmy Butler, Jae Crowder, Goran Dragic, Udonis Haslem, Tyler Herro, Solomon Hill, Andre Iguodala, Derrick Jones Jr., Meyers, Leonard, Kendrick Nunn, KZ Okpala, Kelly Olynyk, Duncan Robinson, Chris Silva, Gabe Vincent
The Heat are two and a half games behind currently the third-seeded Celtics and two games ahead of the Pacers, who unfortunately are missing Domantas Sabonis for what could be a lengthy period. With that being the case, it’s more than a likely scenario that the Heat hold steady with their current fourth-place seeding for the playoffs after the dust settles from the eight-game regular season restart. This puts them on a collision course with the Pacers, whom they will get to put to test twice over the remaining games, once at “home” and the other on the “road.”
The addition of perennial competitor Jimmy Butler has been a catalyst for the Heat’s competitiveness this season, but the good things that fell for them did not stop there.
Bam Adebayo’s emergence as a force of nature who literally does everything on both ends of the floor has been huge for the Heat. He’s a legit superstar now and has shown in 2019-20 that he’s not just on the rise but has even more untapped potential that’s still beneath the surface. Adebayo is currently averaging 16.2 PPG, 10.5 RPG, 5.1 APG, 1.2 SPG and 1.3 BPG – a big leap from his 2018-19 campaign.
Rookie Kendrick Nunn’s strong preseason play allowed him to earn the starting point guard job, pushing Goran Dragic to the bench. This worked out well, for the most part, with Dragic being able to comfortably quarterback the team’s offense with the second unit. Notably, both Adebayo and Nunn tested positive for the COVID-19 virus but have since recovered and are currently with the team in the NBA bubble in Orlando.
Lastly, Duncan Robinson burst onto the scene as a reliable 3-point shooting machine gun for the Heat. His presence in the starting lineup has helped them considerably by spreading out the defense. His 3.7 treys per game this season, tell you that he simply cannot be left unguarded once he’s set up beyond that 3-point arc.
The Heat are one of the teams that were able to take the most advantage of the lengthy hiatus from play. It gave their injured players a chance to get healthy. Tyler Herro, Kelly Olynyk and Meyers Leonard got extra months to recuperate and rest up. Speaking of these guys, the Heat are actually one of the deepest teams in the Eastern Conference. The addition of Jae Crowder has been a perfect fit for the team and their style. Andre Iguodala and his aging knees will likely be saved for the playoffs and won’t likely see much burn over the restart’s eight games but he’s there too, if the Heat ever need yet another defensive star-stopper.
From a fantasy standpoint, the Heat serve as a smorgasbord of late-round value glue-guys like Crowder, Dragic and Olynyk. These role-players are able to thrive in coach Erik Spoelstra’s balanced rotation. Even when they don’t get heavy runs on the floor, they’re so primed to deliver instantly, that they rarely need many minutes in order to make an impact on the box scores.
Players to own in restart leagues: Jimmy Butler, Bam Adebayo, Duncan Robinson, Kendrick Nunn, Jae Crowder, Goran Dragic, Kelly Olynyk
Record: 30-35 (Currently 8th in the Eastern Conference)
Restart Opponents: Nets, Kings, Pacers, Raptors, Sixers, Celtics, Nets, Pelicans
Official Roster for Restart: D.J. Augustin, Mo Bamba, Khem Birch, Michael Carter-Williams, Gary Clark, James Ennis III, Evan Fournier, Melvin Frazier Jr., Markelle Fultz, Aaron Gordon, Jonathan Isaac, Wes Iwundu, B.J. Johnson, Vic Law, Terrence Ross, Nikola Vucevic
The Magic are currently holding onto that precious eighth and final spot in the East’s playoff race, but being only half a game behind the Nets, they’ve got a good shot to overtake Brooklyn and improve their seeding position – possibly escaping an early-round exit at the hands of the top-seeded Bucks.
The Magic will live and die on the shoulders of Montenegrin big man Nikola Vucevic, whether they want to or not. The 29-year-old center is averaging a double-double this season with 19.5 PPG and 11.0 RPG while shooting an efficient 47 percent from the field and 78.1 percent from the line. Vooch does a bit of everything and simply does not bring any drawbacks to the table, making him such an impressive player to watch, both in real-life and in fantasy.
Complementing Vucevic on offense this season are Aaron Gordon, an improved Evan Fournier and the team’s premier 3-point shooting threat off the bench in Terrence Ross.
One of the biggest issues that the Magic are dealing with heading into the NBA restart is Johnathan Isaac, who is still slowly recovering from a posterior lateral corner injury to his left knee. While the hiatus has provided him with a wide window of time to recover, he’s still not yet 100 percent healthy. The good news is that he’s recently progressed to 5-on-5 work and is set to scrimmage with the team. While that’s a step in the right direction, the team will take an extra cautious approach with Isaac, not wanting to risk his long-term health.
If he does indeed take to the court during the restart, he will be brought along slowly and will likely be in for a minutes limit from the get-go. The versatile defender upped his game in 2019-20, proving that he’s a serious threat on that end of the floor with averages of 1.6 steals and 2.4 blocks per game. His active presence will be missed while he’s still stuck in “recovery mode.”
Aside from Isaac, another player who also saw a big leap in 2019-20 is Markelle Fultz. He’s brings a feel-good redemption narrative to the table, providing us with an inspirational story on how not to give up. Plagued by injuries for most of his early career, the 2017 first-overall pick (Sixers) was pretty much an afterthought before being given a new lease on life by the Magic. The Magic groomed him to take over the starting PG job from aging D.J. Augustin and Fultz did not disappoint, exceeding expectations with 12.1 points, 5.2 assists and 1.3 steals per game.
Even though he’s moved to the bench, Augustin has shown that he’s got a little bit left in his tank, often good enough for a boost in assists this season for those who’ve streamed him in fantasy.
Players to own in restart leagues: Nikola Vucevic, Aaron Gordon, Terrence Ross, Evan Fournier, Markelle Fultz, D.J. Augustin, Jonathan Isaac*
Record: 24-40 (Currently 9th in the Eastern Conference, 6 games behind 8th)
Restart Opponents: Suns, Nets, Pacers, Sixers, Pelicans, Thunder, Bucks, Celtics
Official Roster or Restart: Isaac Bonga, Troy Brown Jr. , Thomas Bryant, Jerian Grant, Rui Hachimura, Ian Mahinmi, Garrison Matthews, Shabazz Napier, Anzejs Pasecniks, Jerome Robinson, Ish Smith, Jarrod Uthoff, Mortiz Wagner, Johnathan Williams
The Wizards are like the friend you’re not really keen on hanging out with but bring along because you need them as an extra body to use that Groupon. While that may sound harsh, it’s actually almost true. The Wizards are a long-shot to make it into the Eastern Conference playoffs. They literally need everything to go their way and for either the Nets or the Magic to fall flat on their faces in a big way – something that’s not likely going to happen. Well, given how injury-plagued the Nets are, it’s a possibility. But we have to circle back to Wizards somehow sweeping all eight of their games for the restart, which is going to be a tall order with star guard Bradley Beal opting to sit out the resumption of the season. They will most probably get crushed by the Sixers, Celtics and Bucks, so it’s looking pretty bleak for Wizards fans’ hopes right now.
Aside from Beal, new-found fantasy darling Davis Bertans opted to avoid any health risks and has decided to sit out as well. Bertans was one of 2019-20’s more pleasant surprises in the fantasy landscape. He came through with the best season of his four-year career, posting 15.4 points, 3.7 treys, 4.5 rebounds, 0.7 steals and 0.6 blocks in 29.3 minutes per game. His absence will open opportunities for Moritz Wagner, who is worth a look as a late-round flier in resumption leagues.
Fine, let’s assume that it’s a foregone conclusion that the team is out of the running and will be going through the motions over these eight games, so to speak. Then what should we expect to happen?
Well, for one thing, the Wizards are most probably going to be inclined to give their young guys a shot at extended playing time. Leading the list of those players is rookie Rui Hachimura, who is being groomed to becoming one of the team’s future offensive threats. He’s going to get a lot of run but so far, his less-than-dynamic stat line has left his owners in fantasy wanting. He’s going to be a good double-double, high-scoring threat with a random sprinkling of random peripherals here and there.
The restart will also give young big man Thomas Bryant a chance to redeem himself from a sub-par season as he was hobbled by a stress reaction in his right foot. Bryant has affirmed that the injury is behind him now and that he’s operating at 100 percent health, so he’s someone to target in the middle-rounds of resumption-league drafts for his ability to do a bit of everything you’d want from a stretch five without hurting your team at the free throw line.
Last but definitely not the least is Shabazz Napier, who is a fantasy wildcard coming into the restart. In his 15 games with Wizards this season, coming over by way of the Minnesota Timberwolves, Napier has averaged 12.0 PPG, 1.6 3PG, 4.4 APG and 1.7 SPG. However, with Bradley Beal now out of the picture, Napier will have a chance to just explode and, dare we say, pull out a “Jeremy Lin” for the Wizards over these final eight games of the season.
Players to own in restart leagues: Thomas Bryant, Rui Hachimura, Shabazz Napier, Moritz Wagner, Ish Smith, Troy Brown