Which Teams Benefit Most From the NBA Suspension?
The Los Angeles Lakers
Here comes my slight LeBronJames bias. LeBron spends $1.5 million on his body to keep himself in shape. The one thing money can't buy during a gruesome 82 game season? Time. LeBron will now have a chance to rest and recover mid-season, granting him fresh legs for the playoffs. LeBron, who is likely having the most dominant season from a 35-year-old ever, won’t fall victim to Father Time this year with a prolonged mid-season break.
As for the rest of the Lakers’ roster, they play through the King - he makes the players around him better because of the attention he demands. New-found explosiveness from this hiatus will not only boost his numbers, but also those of his surrounding shooters (welcome to Waiters island, Laker fans!). Rust won’t play a factor in LeBron’s 17th year, and we should expect the Lakers to extend their lead atop the Western Conference even further once play resumes.
The Memphis Grizzlies
The suspension of play actually benefits the playoff-hopeful Memphis Grizzlies. Sitting pretty at the 8th seed in the West, they are currently in position to participate in playoff basketball. In their last 10 games, they are 4-6, and with a Portland Trailblazers team finally finding their rhythm only two games behind them, a playoff seed is nowhere near secure. Despite their current seeding, the 82 game season frequently fatigues rookies and sophomores who have yet to adjust to the league’s longevity.
Considering Memphis’ super-youthful core of Ja Morant, Jaren Jackson Jr., and Dillon Brooks, the franchise was bound to hit a performance roadblock due to their inexperience of playing game after game down the stretch. This hiatus will allow Ja to refresh his body and transition from a 30 game college season to the exhausting full 82.
The Utah Jazz
Insert coronavirus joke here. All banter aside, the Jazz sit 4th in the West at 41 wins; not far behind are the Thunder, Rockets, and Mavericks tied at 40 wins. One loss and the Jazz will fall down to the 7th seed in the wild Western Conference.
After four consecutive 30-point games after the All-Star Break, Donovan Mitchell has slowed down, notching just 11 points in two of his three last outings. The Jazz are 5-5 in their last ten, and the surging Oklahoma City Thunder are hot on their tail, riding a three game winning streak. The mounting pressure on Mitchell to perform at a higher level can be put on hold, and many opposing teams (likely scared of catching COVID-19) will let Rudy Gobert get handsy in the paint, leading to an increase of his numbers when play resumes.
The Milwaukee Bucks
Losing four of their last five games, the Bucks suddenly look like they lost a step right before the league-wide suspension. They just gave up 140 points to the 21st-overall ranked offense of the Phoenix Suns. The Bucks have allowed opponents to score over 100 points in each of their last five games. The presumptive championship favorites appeared to be somewhat rattled, but the suspension will allow the Bucks to iron out their knots defensively and prepare for key upcoming litmus-test games against the Boston Celtics and Miami Heat.