The NBA’s current hiatus, which has the season suspended until further notice, has been terrible for many teams and players. It gives contending teams a sense of hopelessness, as their chance to potentially win a championship might’ve been taken from them.
For players like Los Angeles Lakers forward LeBron James, he will be entering his age 36 season next year, which means that another year of production will be lost, he will be on the decline (slowly but surely), and his window for another championship is closing as he ages.
But for other teams, the hiatus is a blessing in disguise. Let’s take a look at the top 5 teams that benefit from this temporary suspension of the NBA season:
5. Philadelphia 76ers:
The Philadelphia 76ers have been this season’s mystery team, as the actual dynamic of the team is unknown. Many people had them as the favorites coming out of the East in the beginning of the season, but now they sit at the 6th seed meaning that if the season resumed and if the playoffs started immediately, they would be facing the Boston Celtics in the first round without home court advantage.
Now this may seem like a strange development considering the fact that they are a roster loaded with talent, but inconsistent seasons from Tobias Harris and Al Horford, both of whom received major contracts in free agency, and injuries to both Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid throughout the season have been contributing factors to why they haven’t been as successful as they hoped to be.
Another reason is the unnatural fit between Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid that has messed up the spacing of the team. During this time off, Simmons has the opportunity to work on his jump shot, which would be critical for the success of the Sixers, as Embiid would then have free roaming space in the paint.
It isn’t like the Sixers are a bad team. They are damn near unbeatable at home, in which they boast the league’s best home record of 29-2, but their struggles outside of the Wells Fargo Center is another reason why they have not met expectations, as they are 10-24 on the road.
This is a time where players, like the Sixers stars, get to relax, rest, and think about what they can improve on in terms of specific aspects of their game and how they can get better as a team.
4. Indiana Pacers:
One of my biggest sleeper teams in the Eastern Conference coming into the NBA Season was the Indiana Pacers. They overachieved without their best player Victor Oladipo last season and halfway through the 2019-20 season, the Pacers boasted one of Eastern Conference’s top records at 30-17 with big man Domantas Sabonis developing into an All-Star and taking a leadership role in the absence of Oladipo.
But after Oladipo returned from his ruptured quad tendon injury, the Pacers played .500 basketball and were 9-9 in that span. There could be a variety of factors playing into why they’ve struggled with their best player back in the lineup.
One reason could be the return of Oladipo to the line-up, but that would be odd considering how well the Pacers have played with Oladipo for the previous two years, and it is foolish to say a team becomes worse with a star player.
That fact helps me reach my conclusion that Oladipo might’ve rushed back from injury too soon, because the Pacers were in a prime position to take advantage of the Eastern Conference standings and gain a great seed for the playoffs. Oladipo hasn’t looked like the same All-Star he was for the previous two years, and so this time off will allow him to rest and fully heal from his injury whether or not the season returns.
If the season eventually resumes and the Pacers do get to play in the playoffs, they will need Oladipo healthy and at the top of his game if they want to make any type of noise in the East..
3. Utah Jazz:
The Utah Jazz were .500 in their last 10 games going into the hiatus, and they had success throughout the season (4th in West) despite inconsistent play at times from their key players such as Mike Conley. The Jazz’s great team chemistry kept the team going through downswings.
That chemistry, which is the engine that keeps them running, will most likely not be the same after All-Star center Rudy Gobert tested positive for COVID-19, which ultimately led to the suspension of the NBA season itself. In turn, Gobert would pass the virus to fellow All-Star teammate Donovan Mitchell.
A report from The Athletic stated that the relationship between Gobert and Mitchell “…doesn’t appear salvageable” and ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski stated that, “Jazz players privately said that Rudy Gobert had been careless in the locker room touching other players and their belongings.”
Mitchell is justified in not wanting to salvage his relationship with Gobert, but from a team perspective, the Jazz need both of their star players to be on the same page if they want to make a deep playoff run. They are lucky that their team doesn’t have to be on the basketball court together anytime soon.
Through the hiatus, they have a long time to talk over the phone with each other, explain each of their perspectives privately, and hopefully mend their relationship for the sake of their team.
2. Brooklyn Nets:
The Brooklyn Nets were the 7th seed in the Eastern Conference prior to the NBA season being suspended. That would put them in playoff position, but they probably wouldn’t advance very far as they would have to face the 2 seed and defending NBA Champion Toronto Raptors without their 2 best players in Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving, who were both marked as out for the rest of the season due to injury.
The hiatus allows Kyrie Irving extra time to heal his knee and shoulder and Kevin Durant extra time to further rehab from his Achilles tear he suffered in the NBA Finals last summer. There are possibly two scenarios that would both be great for Brooklyn:
- Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving are fully healthy by the time the season returns or before the playoffs start giving the Nets two superstars which would immediately make them championship contenders.
- The season is cancelled, but the NBA decides to push back the beginning next season to 2021 giving KD and Kyrie even more time to rest.
The bottom line is the Nets aren’t going to make any noise without either of their superstars, so why not have them both fully healthy before you see them on the floor again. The hiatus gives them this opportunity without missing any playing time.
1. Golden State Warriors:
The moment Aron Baynes fell on Steph Curry and broke his hand, all hope for the Warriors having a successful season was lost. Klay Thompson had been ruled out prior to the season starting with a torn ACL, Kevin Durant departed after tearing his Achilles in the Finals, and after Durant’s departure, the Warriors signed D’Angelo Russell, but he wasn’t good enough to be the number one option on a contender especially in a tough western conference and neither is Draymond Green.
That is why Golden State eventually moved Russell to the Timberwolves at the trade deadline for Andrew Wiggins. The fit wasn’t there and they are preparing for a future in which they are contenders. With the Hiatus, they have time to ensure that their future will be even more safe.
It allows players like Klay Thompson and Stephen Curry to rest even more (especially Klay Thompson who still hasn’t been cleared to return from his ACL injury), and it also allows Bob Meyers and Steve Kerr to spend even more of their own time watching film and scouting players who they want to draft with their lottery pick this summer.
The Warriors have more time to contact these players and get a feel of how they and to connect with general managers of other teams to discuss possible trade packages revolved around their pick for an established star. The future looks bright for Dub Nation, and with the implementation of the hiatus, it looks even brighter.