We are on the precipice of restarting the 2019-20 NBA season, a monumental undertaking at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex in Orlando’s Walt Disney World during a global pandemic. History will be made inside the league’s so-called “bubble,” which houses 22 teams at three hotels within 15 minutes of the three arenas where the eight remaining regular-season seeding games and the playoffs will be held.
It is easy to forget where the league left off in March, considering the equivalent of an entire offseason will have passed between games. In order to get you up to speed before Thursday’s re-opening slate, we reviewed and previewed every team scheduled to participate, complete with analysis of which players have been ruled out of the restart, each roster’s X-factor, best-case scenarios and playoff predictions.
You will find a compilation of our predictions below. Click on each team’s preview for more information.
Eastern Conference predictions
(1) Bucks over (8) Nets
(2) Raptors over (7) Magic
(3) Celtics over (6) Pacers
(5) 76ers over (4) Heat
Eastern Conference semifinals predictions
(1) Bucks over (4) 76ers
(3) Celtics over (2) Raptors
Eastern Conference finals prediction
(1) Bucks over (3) Celtics
Western Conference predictions
Play-in series predictions
(The NBA instituted a play-in series between the eighth- and ninth-place teams, so long as they finish within four games of each other in the standings. In that case, the ninth-place team must win two straight head-to-head games in order to unseat the eighth seed and advance to the first round of the playoffs.)
(9) Blazers over (8) Grizzlies
(1) Lakers over (8) Blazers
(2) Clippers over (7) Mavericks
(3) Nuggets over (6) Thunder
(4) Rockets over (5) Jazz
Western Conference semifinals predictions
(1) Lakers over (4) Rockets
(2) Clippers over (3) Nuggets
Western Conference finals prediction
(2) Clippers over (1) Lakers
NBA Finals prediction
(2) Clippers over (1) Bucks
What a series this would be, with the legacies of two all-time players hanging in the balance.
The Bucks have been the league’s most dominant team all season, boasting a double-digit net rating and operating at a 70-win pace for much of the year. They are led by Giannis Antetokounmpo, the favorite to win both the Most Valuable Player and Defensive Player of the Year awards. Only an NBA title would be missing from his résumé. A win would land him among the greatest players in history at age 25, and a loss would make him the latest on a list of great players whose championship mettle we must question.
The Clippers feature reigning Finals MVP Kawhi Leonard at the helm of the NBA’s most talented and versatile team. Also the 2014 Finals MVP with the Spurs, Leonard’s historic 2019 playoff run delivered the Raptors their first-ever title, before he headed West in free agency. Another Finals MVP would make Leonard the sixth player ever to win the award three times — along with Michael Jordan, LeBron James, Magic Johnson, Tim Duncan and Shaquille O’Neal — and the first to do so with three different teams. That would leave Leonard knocking on the door of the top 10 players in history before his 30th birthday.
We already broke down why the Clippers should win the 2020 NBA championship. Let the games begin.
More from our NBA restart series:
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