(Photo by Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE via Getty Images)
Next 4 games: Suns, Nets, Pacers, 76ers.
The Wizards have a tough outing during their stay at the bubble, missing their 3 best players in Wall, Beal and Bertrans, not to mention they are currently 6 games out of the 8th seed, 2 games out to force the play in style tournament. Their next 4 games are against Phoenix, Brooklyn, Indiana, and Philadelphia. Expect the Wizards to go 0-4 in their upcoming games. They may be able to steal a game against Phoenix but given the Suns dire need to make up ground to challenge for the 8th spot out west, and Devin Booker playing at an all star level, odds are not in favor for the Wizards.
San Antonio Spurs:
Next 4 Games: Kings, Grizzlies, 76ers, Nuggets
The Spurs currently find themselves looking from the outside into the playoff race, and as the saying goes, all great things must come to an end. The Spurs will use this time to get their young players a run and look into the future, so expect a lot of minutes for their young players like Lonnie Walker, Dejounte Murray and Derrick White. With their next games against a couple of contenders (Denver, Philly) and a Memphis team looking to play a Cinderella part, the Spurs have a tough next four games. Their first game vs the Kings is their best opportunity to “steal” a win with the news that Marvin Bagley IIII will be sidelined due to injury.
Next 4 games: Magic, Wizards, Bucks, Celtics
Brooklyn finds itself trying to hang onto the 7th seed out east. However, with multiple injuries to players ranging from physical injuries to news that multiple players tested positive for COVID-19, odds are the Brooklyn will fall to the 8th seed out east. The Nets have a tough outting against Orlando, who is currently in the 8th spot looking to overtake the 7th, followed by Washington, Milwaukee and Boston. I only see the Nets winning against the Wizards, which may be enough to officially eliminate Washington.
Next 4 games: Spurs, Magic, Mavericks, Pelicans
Similar to the Spurs, the Kings are on the outside looking in. With the recent news that Marvin Bagley III is out for the restart, Sacramento and Coach Walton are looking towards the future. This is a chance to develop their young guard duo in Fox and Hield, along with Harrison Barnes. Sacramento is a borderline playoff when fully healthy, and no question will they be in contention next season…but for this, with games against San Antonio, Orlando, Dallas and the Pelicans, the Kings won’t find much value in the bubble.
Next 4 games: Wizards, Mavs, Clippers, Pacers
Devin Booker leads this team for a chance to challenge for the 8th spot. Though odds are very slim of making any noise, they are in a must win mode for every game if they wish to make up the ground needed and somehow leap over 4 other teams. With a brutal schedule in the bubble, the Suns may find themselves booking their return flight to Phoenix rather than booking additional days at Disney World. With games against the Wizards, Mavs, Clippers and Pacers, we will see Phoenix get a good start with a win against the Wizards, only for any momentum to be halted by the Mavs. Look for the Suns to use this time to build chemistry between Booker and Ayton.
Next 4 games: Nets, Kings, Pacers, Raptors
The Magic have basically clinched the final playoff spot for the East, but given the injuries to Brooklyn, they will be highly motivated to try and avoid the Bucks in the first round. They would much prefer the Raptors, having matched up last year against them and even stealing game one. Their first game is the key, as they will face the Nets. The Magic will need to come out motivated and hungry for the win as the Nets will do their best to avoid a date with the Bucks as well. Ultimately, the Magic will be the winner and go on to face Kings, Pacers, and (potential playoff preview) Raptors. Splitting the games is the likely scenario for the Magic with wins vs Brooklyn and Kings being the most likely.
Next 4 games: Blazers, Spurs, Pelicans, Jazz
Rookie of the year Ja Morant and his team flew under everyone’s radar for most of the season. However, during the restart, they look to clinch their playoff berth after missing out on the playoffs the last couple of seasons. Similar to the Magic, their first game back is perhaps their biggest game, as they face the Blazers. Currently they are two 3 games up on Portland for the final spot out west and to avoid the play-in style games, they need to be at least 5 games up on whoever the 9th seed may be. What better way to head toward that milestone then a win against the current 9th seed?
They follow up with a game against the Pelicans who are currently in the 10th spot and four games behind Memphis. Memphis has a great chance to create room and clinch a playoff berth. They end the week against the Jazz and the Thunder, both lower level playoff teams. If Memphis is as hungry as it should be, look at Ja Morant and Co. to take their first three games before losing to OKC.
Portland Trail Blazers:
Next 4 games: Grizzlies, Celtics, Rockets, Nuggets
With the return of play of Jusuf Nurkic and Zach Collins, Portland could sneak into the playoffs, and odds are they will at least force a play-in game against Memphis. As mentioned for the Grizzlies, they will fall to Memphis but then split the rest of the week as they face Boston, Houston and Denver. They will fall to 0-2 after losing to Boston, but with a bigger lineup than the Tucker led Rockets and Denver focusing more on finding a rhythm after missing so many players at the start of camp, Portland will make up ground on Memphis, will it be enough for the play-in games? Time will tell.
Next 4 games: Pelicans (tonight), Thunder, Lakers, Grizzlies
The Jazz find themselves in a pickle, they are missing their 2nd leading scorer and with the supposed chemistry issues, will they cave and drop down in the west? They face a playoff-hungry Zion Williamson and the Pelicans first followed by games against the Thunder, Lakers, and Grizzlies. I would not be surprised to see the Jazz go 4-0 or 0-4, with the latter being my hunch. Sure the Jazz have all-stars in Donovan Mitchell and Rudy Gobert, but Can they stop young hungry Pelicans and Grizzlies teams? A CP3 led Thunder? And the King himself? My money is on no.
Next 4 games: Mavs, Bucks, Blazers, Lakers
Houston has fully embraced a small ball line up after trading away Clint Capela midseason. The team is led be the dynamite duo of Russell Westbrook and James Harden, but with PJ tucker, at the starting center spot, they will face many miss matches against elite bigs. Their upcoming games are against Dallas, Milwaukee, Los Angeles Lakers, and Portland. I see them getting a win against Dallas, followed by 3 losses. The 3 losses will be due to the Rockets’ lake of size. With Giannis, AD, and Nurkic all standing at around 7 feet, it may be a big fleet to overcome.
New Orleans Pelicans:
Next 4 games: Jazz (tonight), Clippers, Grizzlies, Kings
Zion Williamson hopes to lead his team to a playoff spot, but it will be an uphill battle. This is a very exciting team to watch, especially given their next opponents being Utah, LAC, Sacramento, and Memphis. Their toughest matchup will come against the Clippers and the Grizzlies. Look at them to split the games, beating the Jazz and the Kings, but losing to Grizzlies and Clippers. Will the NBA has its way, and have Zion join the big dance? Odds are slim, but we will find out.
Next 4 games: Rockets, Suns, Kings, Clippers
Future MVP Luka Doncic leads Dallas in an uphill battle for higher positioning, as the team has already clinched the playoffs. Currently, they sit in the 7th spot and will try to avoid both LA teams and Denver at all cost. Their next opponents include the Rockets, Suns, Kings, and the Clippers, of which Dallas will split their first matchups, losing against the Clippers and Rockets. That said, look at them to move a top-5 seed in the West.
Next 4 games: 76ers, Wizards, Magic, Suns
With question marks still surrounding Victor Oladipo playing or not, Indiana finds itself in a very interesting position. The team is clearly a top-5 seed in the east, but there’s a big gap between them and elite teams. In these next four games, they match up against Philly, Washington, Orlando, and Phoenix. Odds are they will drop their first game against Philly but will rebound nicely and finish the week 3-1 with wins against the other teams. IF Oladipo is playing, and should he be healthy, then maybe Indiana can make more noise and perhaps even go 4-0.
Oklahoma City Thunder:
Next 4 games: Jazz, Nuggets, Lakers, Grizzlies
Talk about a sleeper team. Most had written off the Thunder after the team traded away Paul George and Russell Westbrook this past offseason, with the mindset being that they were embracing a full rebuild. Yet here we are at the restart and this a very nice team. Led by playoff vets in CP3, Danilo Gallinari and Steven Adams, OKC has a chance to climb in the standings. With their next games against Utah, Denver, LAL, and Memphis look at them to spilt the games. Expect impressive wins over Utah and Memphis, while losing to contenders in Denver and Los Angeles.
Next 4 games: Pacers, Spurs, Wizards, Magic
The 76ers currently find themselves 6th out east and would be matching up with Boston, had the playoffs started today. The team clearly has some room to make up as there is no reason a team full of 3 all-star caliber players and a top veteran in Al Horford should not be top 4 in the east.
Currently, they sit behind Indiana and Miami for the 4-seed. Their next opponents are Indiana, San Antonio, Washington, and Orlando. Look at them to take full advantage of their weaker opponents and go 4-0, perhaps enough to overtake the 4th spot.
Next 4 Games: Nuggets, Raptors, Celtics, Bucks
Talk about a dark horse. Miami has quietly but surely had a great season. With the recent additions of Andre Iguodala and Jimmy Butler, and the growth of Bam Adebayo, this is a team that any team may want to avoid. Miami has a tough schedule all against contenders to start the restart. They face Denver, Toronto, Boston, and Milwaukee. Miami has a chance to see where they stand against the top teams in the east, and I see them splitting the games, they are just as likely to beat the Bucks, as they are to lose to them. Their schedule is full of fun and exciting games.
Next 4 games: Bucks, Blazers, Heat, Nets
Boston has such an exciting team, led by COY candidate in Brad Stevens. They have 3 all-star caliber players in their starting unit, and with the time off perhaps Gordon Hayward has recovered more after his awful injury of season’s past. Their strong offensive unit will surely be a tough match for all of their opponents during their stay at the bubble. We start out with a potential playoff matchup against Milwaukee, followed by Portland, Miami, and Brooklyn. I see the Celtics dropping only their first game, then winning their next 3, perhaps even sneaking into the 2 seed.
Next 4 games: Heat, Thunder, Spurs, Blazers
With Denver already clinching a top-7 seed out west and the number of players that were not present during camp, look for Denver to really use the seeding games to be more focused on finding their game as opposed to getting results. During the scrimmages, we saw Malone go-to players that will more than likely not get much playing time, so expect the Nuggets to focus on getting minutes for Jokic and the regulars during the first three quarters, then perhaps go to the bench unit to close the game. Again Malone has stated it’s about getting a rhythm as opposed to results in the seeding games for Denver. Games against Miami, OKC, SAS, and Portland look at them to split 2-2 with losses to Miami and Portland
Next 4 games: Lakers, Heat, Magic, Celtics
The champ is here. The Raptors look to continue their impressive season led by all-stars Kyle Lowry and Pascal Siakam. It’s too late to catch the Bucks for the one-seed, however, Toronto looks to clinch the 2-seed. With a tough schedule, and Boston creeping behind them, the time is now for Toronto. They start against the Lakeshow, perhaps a final matchup preview? Followed by Miami, Orlando, and Boston. Look at the Raptors to go 3-1 in their matchups with their one loss being either LA or Boston. Will it be enough to stay as the 2 seed? We will find out.
Los Angeles Lakers:
Next 4 games: Clippers (tonight), Raptors, Jazz, Thunder
The King looks to lead his team to its first finals appearance in 10 years. However, the west is as stacked as ever. With perhaps the toughest schedule of the restart, currently 5 games up on the 2 seeded Clippers, the Lakers have all but clinched the top seed. Their first matchup will be against the Clippers, a win here will surely lock up the 1st seed. Followed by games against Toronto, Utah, and OKC, the Lakers look to show why they are title favorites.
Los Angeles Clippers:
Next 4 games: Lakers (tonight), Pelicans, Suns, Mavericks
The little brother has been living in the LA shadow for too long, could this be the first of many seasons to come where the Clippers are better and perhaps more popular than the Lakers? I doubt it, but that doesn’t mean one can’t dream of it. With games against LAL, New Orleans, Phoenix, and Dallas, look at them to lose against the Lakers tonight but end strong against their last three opponents.
Next 4 games: Celtics, Rockets, Nets, Heat
Fear the Deer indeed. The Bucks have locked up the one-seed out east, and after losing to the eventual champs in last year’s playoffs, MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo is on a mission. They face Boston, Houston, Brooklyn, and Miami. Though they face only playoff teams, look at Milwaukee to establish their dominance out east, winning all of their matchups.