Had the 2019-20 NBA season performed out usually, the Los Angeles Lakers, primarily based on opponent profitable proportion, would’ve had the 18th-toughest remaining schedule as of March 11, when the league was suspended within the wake of Rudy Gobert testing optimistic for COVID-19. 

Now when play resumes on July 30 in Orlando, the Lakers can have the league’s third-toughest closing slate. It should not matter a lot. The Lakers have a six-game lead within the loss column over the No. 2 Clippers, who’ve a greater likelihood of falling out of the West’s prime 4 than they do of catching LeBron James and firm. 

It is the underside of the West the place a few of the greatest drama may play out, with 5 present non-playoff groups inside 4 video games of the No. Eight seed, which is at the moment occupied by Memphis. 

As has been effectively chronicled, every of the 22 groups invited to Orlando will play eight “seeding” video games constituting the conclusion of the common season, at which level the Nos. 1-7 seeds in every convention might be locked in. If the No. 9 seed in both convention is inside 4 video games of the No. Eight seed, there might be a playoff for the ultimate spot(s) with the decrease seed having to beat the upper seed twice. From there, a standard playoff format will start.  

With that in thoughts, let’s check out the respective convention standings, the tightest races and present playoff matchups because the resumption of the season sits simply over a month out. 

Western Convention

1. Lakers

49-14 (–)

vs. Grizzlies

2. Clippers

44-20 (5.5 GB)

vs. Mavericks

3. Nuggets

43-22 (7 GB)

vs. Rockets

4. Jazz

41-23 (8.5 GB)

vs. Thunder

5. Thunder

40-24 (9.5 GB)

at Jazz

6. Rockets

40-24 (9.5 GB)

at Nuggets

7. Mavericks

40-27 (11 GB)

at Clippers

8. Grizzlies

32-33 (18 GB)

at Lakers

As you may see, the Lakers are at the moment matched up in opposition to the Grizzlies within the first spherical, however that is removed from solidified. As you may see beneath, Portland, New Orleans, Sacramento and San Antonio are all inside 4 video games within the loss column of the Grizzlies, who’ve the sixth-toughest remaining schedule. 

The Pelicans, in the meantime, have the simplest street in Orlando whereas the Kings have the third best. The Blazers, a convention finals group from a yr in the past, may very well be at full energy when play resumes with Jusuf Nurkic and Zach Collins again within the lineup.

Which is to say, nevertheless the No. Eight seed shakes out, the Lakers, who might be with out the companies of starter Avery Bradley, are in for a legitimately robust first-round matchup. 

One other factor that jumps out right here is the Clippers’ three-game lead over the No. Four Jazz, who might be taking part in with out Bojan Bogdanovic. In different phrases, the possibilities of the Clippers falling previous the No. Three seed are slim, which retains them on the other facet of the bracket from the Lakers, which places the 2 L.A. groups on a convention finals collision course. 

So far as the 3-6 seeds, clearly rather a lot can change in eight video games with simply two video games separating Denver and Houston at every finish of that spectrum, and one recreation separating 4-6. 

After all, usually this could be a race for home-court benefit within the first spherical, however this yr that is irrelevant. So this turns into about matchups. You must surprise what sort of manipulating we would see as groups chase most popular first-round matchups and sides of the bracket. 

Race for No. 8

9. Path Blazers


4 (in loss column)

10. Pelicans


3 (in loss column)

11. Kings 


3 (in loss column)

12. Spurs


3 (in loss column)

13. Suns


6 (in loss column)

The win-percentage tiebreaker rule instituted throughout this distinctive format may significantly profit the Blazers, who’ve extra losses than the Pelicans, and are literally 0-Three in head-to-head matchups vs. New Orleans this season, however by advantage of taking part in two extra video games have a barely higher win proportion. We’ll see if that components in. 

Jap Convention

1. Bucks

53-12 (–)

vs. Magic

2. Raptors

46-18 (6.5 GB)

vs. Nets

3. Celtics

43-21 (9.5 GB)

vs. 76ers

4. Warmth

41-24 (12 GB)

vs. Pacers

5. Pacers

39-26 (14 GB)

at Warmth

6. 76ers

39-26 (14 GB)

at Celtics

7. Nets

30-34 (22.5 GB)

at Raptors

8. Magic

30-35 (23 GB)

at Bucks

Boston vs. Philadelphia within the first spherical? That may be one thing, however the Sixers have an opportunity to maneuver up a pair spots with the second best remaining schedule in Orlando. The Raptors, in the meantime, have the toughest remaining schedule in Orlando, however it could be practically unimaginable for them to fall any decrease than the No. Three seed. Boston and Toronto play on August 7, and that recreation may settle rather a lot. 

Having stated that, what is the distinction between the No. 2 and three seed? The reply is nothing … aside from a unique first-round matchup, which may very well be an enormous deal. Whoever leads to the No. 6 seed might be a far harder matchup than the Nets or Magic. 

Miami, just like the Lakers, received a troublesome break with its Orlando schedule. Had the season continued below regular situations, the Warmth would’ve had the 14th-toughest remaining schedule; now they’ve the second hardest. 

Race for No. 8

9. Wizards


5 (in loss column)

The Wizards are the one present non-playoff group from the Jap Convention to be invited to Orlando, and you must surprise simply how onerous they’re going to truly be attempting to get into the playoffs. Davis Bertans has already introduced he is not going to play, and so long as the Wizards miss the playoffs, their lottery odds might be calculated primarily based on the place they stood within the standings when play was suspended, which might have them slotted for a top-10 choose. 

But when they do crack the postseason, they’ll fall fully out of the lottery. That is doubtlessly 5 or extra draft slots they might lose all for the best to get smashed within the first spherical in opposition to the Bucks — with out even the good thing about no less than two residence video games of income. I would not be stunned if Bradley Beal performs restricted minutes after which bounces from Orlando the second the Wizards are mathematically eradicated. 

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