NBA restart: Bucks 2020 playoff glance
The NBA is restarting at the end of July with an eight-game schedule for each of the remaining 22 teams. Milwaukee Bucks, among others, has already clinched a playoff spot and the Bucks are a near certainty to claim the top seed in the Eastern Conference when the playoffs begin in mid-August.
Having the No. 1 seed normally means home-court advantage, but, of course, not this season as all the games will be played “in a bubble” at Disney World.
There are still advantages, though. Milwaukee won’t have to face a 2 or 3 seed until the conference finals (and the Bucks do get to stay at a nicer hotel, albeit maybe not one preferred by Robin Lopez).
As the top seed, the Bucks will play the No. 8 seed in the opening round – or the No. 9, depending on a possible play-in series.
Below we’ll take a look at each of the teams in the conference and how they relate to the Bucks. First, here’s the standings as the NBA prepares to restart:
Washington is 5 1/2 games in back of Orlando and six behind Brooklyn. The Wizards need to get within four games of the eighth seed by the end of the regular season to force a play-in series with the Magic or Nets. Then, Washington would need to win back-to-back games to advance. Any win by Orlando/Brooklyn and that team is in the playoffs.
The Wizards won’t have Bradley Beal, who leads the team in both scoring (30.5 ppg) and assists (6.1 apg), as he will sit out due a rotator cuff injury. Also, Washington will be without John Wall, who hasn’t played all season and decided to not attempt to come back in Orlando, and Davis Bertans, the team’s second-leading scorer, who is opting-out of the restart.
Needless to say, the Wizards are the longest of long shots.
Remaining opponents (in order of date played): Suns, Nets, Pacers, 76ers, Pelicans, Thunder, Bucks, Celtics
If any team has home-court advantage, we guess it would be the Magic since presumably a lot of their players might have been training in Orlando … but let’s not carried away with that angle.
Orlando was 8-4 in its last 12 games … but just one of those teams it beat has a winning record (Houston) and two of the losses came to sub-.500 teams (San Antonio, Portland).
As of now it looks like no Magic players are opting out, although Jonathan Isaac seems doubtful to return from an injury.
Milwaukee won all four of its games against Orlando: 123-91, 111-101, 111-100 and 111-95.
Remaining opponents: Nets, Kings, Pacers, Raptors, 76ers, Celtics, Nets, Pelicans
It might be more prudent to list Nets players not making the trip to Orlando than those who are.
Kevin Durant remains out, as he has been all season. Kyrie Irving (27.4 ppg, 6.4 apg, 5.2 rpg in 20 games) also is injured and out. So is backup Nic Claxton (4.4 ppg). Veteran forward Wilson Chandler (5.9 ppg, 4.1 rpg) has opted-out. Shooting guard Spencer Dinwiddle (20.6 ppg), center DeAndre Jordan (8.3 ppg, 10.0 rpg) and forward Taurean Prince (12.1 ppg, 6.0 rbg) tested positive for COVID-19 and all have ruled themselves out for the Orlando restart.
It’d be an uphill climb for Brooklyn either way, but can a group consisting of Jarrett Allen, Joe Harris, Caris LeVert and Garrett Temple take out the Bucks (presuming they are healthy of course) in a seven-game series?
The Nets are currently the No. 7 seed but as you can see above their positioning is quite tenuous.
Remaining opponents: Magic, Wizards, Bucks, Celtics, Kings, Clippers, Magic, Blazers
If there’s team primed to move up in the seedings it might be Philadelphia, but only if Ben Simmons returns from injury, which now appears possible.
Simmons missed Philadelphia’s last eight games before play stopped and the 76ers were 4-4 in those games. In the 54 games Simmons started, Philly was 33-21.
Zhaire Smith, who was averaging just 4.6 minutes per game, is the only 76er who looks to be opting out of the Orlando trip.
A healthy and motivated Joel Embiid would make Philadelphia a tough out. Milwaukee wouldn’t face the 76ers until the second round if they make it to a 4 or 5 seed an advance; a 6 seed means only a championship meeting with Philadelphia springing two upsets.
The Bucks went 2-1 against the 76ers. The loss came on the road on Christmas Day. Simmons played fewer than five minutes in one of the Milwaukee wins while the other the Bucks won 112-101 on Feb. 6.
Remaining opponents: Pacers, Spurs, Wizards, Magic, Blazers, Suns, Raptors, Rockets
Indiana might have been one of the bigger wild cards if Victor Oladipo decided to join the team in Orlando, but he’s decided to skip the return to play.
Oladipo missed most of the season with a ruptured heel but returned in late January. However, with a long layoff, the star guard is concerned about increasing his chance of re-injury. The Pacers are certainly a better team with him on the roster.
No other Indiana player is expected to opt-out, including guard Malcolm Brogdon, who tested positive for the coronavirus.
Both Philadelphia and Indiana are two games behind Miami for the No. 4 seed, so, if things go as they stand, either the Pacers or 76ers will be in the upper half of the bracket with the Bucks.
Milwaukee is 3-1 against the Pacers this season, the lone loss coming on the road in a game Giannis Antetokounmpo sat out.
Remaining opponents: 76ers, Wizards, Magic, Suns, Lakers, Heat, Rockets, Heat
The one team the Bucks might not want to play? Miami.
Milwaukee lost both games it played against the Heat this season. The Bucks blew a big lead in the second half in losing in overtime at home back in October, then on Match 2 had a horrible shooting night in Miami.
In both games, the Bucks had trouble shooting from 3, making 17 of 54 (31.5%) in the OT loss and 7 of 34 (20.6%) in the road defeat.
Miami is planning on having all 17 of its players in Orlando, including small forward Derrick Jones Jr., who tested positive for COVID-19.
Remaining opponents: Nuggets, Raptors, Celtics, Bucks, Suns, Pacers, Thunder, Pacers
Boston is in fairly good position to be the No. 3 seed. The Celtics are 2 1/2 games up on Miami and three games in behind Toronto.
The Celtics are expected to have everyone available in Orlando.
Milwaukee and Boston have split the two games they played, each team winning at home. The Bucks won on Jan. 16 and the Celtics on Oct. 30.
Remaining opponents: Bucks, Blazers, Heat, Nets, Raptors, Magic, Grizzlies, Wizards
Toronto has a 5 1/2-game edge on the No. 4 seed Miami. It’d take something short of a miracle to see the Raptors fall all the way down and be a potential second-round matchup for the Bucks.
Milwaukee beat Toronto on Nov. 2 at home and Feb. 25 on the road.
Remaining opponents: Lakers, Heat, Magic, Celtics, Grizzlies, Bucks, 76ers, Nuggets
The Bucks’ magic number to clinch the No. 1 seed is two – as in two combined Milwaukee wins and/or Toronto losses. We like their odds.
Every Milwaukee player is expected to play in the season reboot.
Remaining opponents: Celtics, Rockets, Nets, Heat, Mavericks, Raptors, Wizards, Grizzlies