Seeding for the 2019-2020 NBA playoffs is useless considering no team would actually have home-court advantage when the restart happens in the Orlando bubble at the end of July.
Even the Magic won’t have much to enjoy in terms of fan support, home-cooking, and sleeping in their own beds since all 22 teams will essentially be playing in empty arenas while sequestered at Disney’s Wide World of Sports complex.
So, how the final eight games of the Covid-19-shortened regular season pans out doesn’t really matter unless your team wants to avoid powerhouses like the Milwaukee Bucks and Toronto Raptors in the East and the Los Angeles Lakers and Los Angeles Clippers in the West.
Last week we delved on who among the nine teams whose postseason hopes still hang in the balance will advance to the Association’s version of the Sweet Sixteen. With my infinite wisdom I picked the Magic and the Brooklyn Nets to come out in the East and the New Orleans Pelicans to punch the final ticket in the West.
No chance though they make it past the first round of the playoffs. Now that we’ve had the pretenders out of the way, please indulge me as I attempt to prognosticate on who emerges with the Larry O’Brien trophy in the 2019-2020 season of the NBA.
Milwaukee Bucks (53-12)
The Milwaukee Bucks have all the pressure to win the championship this year. Giannis Antetokounmpo is en route to a back-to-back MVP season and the Cream City has its sights on finishing with the best record this year.
Coach Mike Budenholzer’s team is built to win now and they have a chance to make the NBA Finals. If they don’t, expect the Greek Freak to look for greener pastures when he becomes an unrestricted free agent in 2021.
Toronto Raptors (46-18)
It’s a nice story. Even after losing Kawhi Leonard in the offseason, the Raptors have continued to contend. It’s a testament to coach Nick Nurse and the organization that Toronto hasn’t fallen off in the East’s pecking order.
But…despite another breakout season by Pascal Siakamand junkyard dog Kyle Lowry continuing to ball out, I don’t expect the Raps to even make it to the conference finals.
Boston Celtics (43-21)
Trader Danny still hasn’t reaped the fruits from fleecing the Nets in 2014 when they traded Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce, and a bag of chips for five players and three first round picks. Could this be the year?
They also haven’t gotten the best out of Brad Stevens’ disciple and oft-injured Gordon Hayward. Could he ever live up to his max contract? Was essentially swapping Kyrie Irving for Kemba Walker pay dividends? The answer to all three are: no, no, and no.
Miami Heat (41-24)
I wanna wear my Miami Heat cap and say they’ll make it all the way and another parade down Biscayne Boulevard is in the cards. But as a columnist, I need to be objective (wink, wink) and as much as all-stars Jimmy Butler and Bam Adebayo have made the Heat a dark horse in the East, my ceiling for coach Erik Spoelstra’s crew is in the conference finals.
Indiana Pacers (39-26)
This is the shakiest team in the bubble. Former all-star Victor Oladipo has yet to give his nod on the restart as he wants to re-evaluate his fitness level and how his surgically repaired quad tendon responds going back to playing basketball full throttle.
His backcourt mate, Malcolm Brogdon, is also doubtful for Indiana as he recently tested positive for the coronavirus. I see coach Nate McMillan’s team as first round fodder in the playoffs.
Philadelphia 76ers (39-26)
The Process is still not complete and it won’t be for a while if not ever. All-world center Joel Embiid is a load down low but still takes too many ill-advised 3-pointers. He also seems to need a rest most of the time.
All-world point guard Ben Simmons is a beast on the fastbreak, but clogs up the middle for Embid in the half court with his inability—or some say disdain—from taking the outside shot.
The City of Brotherly Love can only go as far as Embid’shealth and Simmons’ outside shot takes them. They’ll make it to the second round and that’s it.
Orlando Magic (30-35)
Unless there’s some hocus pocus going on in Orlando, I don’t foresee the Magic to make any noise in the playoffs. As I said earlier, Nikola Vucevic is an all-star for a reason and I like the way Markelle Fultz has developed after unfairly being labeled a bust in his rookie year with the 76ers.
But Orlando needs some of Jack’s magic beans to grow into a contender.
Brooklyn Nets (30-34)
No Kyrie Irving. No Kevin Durant. And now, no De’AndreJordan for the Nets in the playoffs after the Lob City alumnus tested positive for COVID-19. Not that KD’s best friend would make a difference in the playoffs, but the Nets should just be happy having been invited to the playoff shindig in the first place.
By the way, two-way guard Spencer Dinwiddie also tested positive for ‘rona. First round exit for sure.
Since I’ve already exceeded by word count quota, I will tackle the West contenders and the teams without peer in my column next week.
Mark Rabago is a former reporter at Manila Times. He has continued his journalism career abroad but remains a true-blue NBA and PBA fan. He can be reached at email@example.com.