Everything to know about the NBA’s 22-team restart at Walt Disney World

Everything to know about the NBA's 22-team restart at Walt Disney World


NBA basketball is back.

Tipping off with the Utah JazzNew Orleans Pelicans and LA ClippersLos Angeles Lakers showdowns Thursday night, the league will begin its 22-team, eight-game wrap-up to the regular season, all inside Disney’s ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex in Orlando, Florida. A possible play-in tournament for the eighth seed and full playoffs schedule will follow.

As we count the hours until tip-off in the bubble, our experts are breaking down each team’s road to a restart, big questions, high stakes and stats to know before basketball makes its return.

Note: NBA title odds are provided by Caesars Sportsbook.

MORE: View the entire 2020 NBA schedule


Jump to a team:
Bucks | Lakers | Raptors | Clippers | Celtics
Nuggets | Jazz | Heat | Thunder | Rockets | Pacers
76ers | Mavericks | Grizzlies | Nets | Magic | Blazers
Pelicans | Kings | Spurs | Suns | Wizards


2019-20 record: 53-12 (.815)
Vegas title odds: +275
Remaining schedule: BOS, HOU, BKN, MIA, DAL, TOR, WSH, MEM

Although Milwaukee’s quest for 70 wins had officially ended before the pandemic halted play, the Bucks were still leading the NBA in victories this season. Simply put, Milwaukee remains in a serious title pursuit.

How they got here
Giannis Antetokounmpo hit the hiatus as the front-runner to repeat as the league’s MVP with Milwaukee at 53-12. The Bucks have been dominant on the defensive end — their 101.6 defensive rating is by far the best in the league. Although Giannis is the clear-cut No. 1 option in Milwaukee, fellow All-Star Khris Middleton as well as Eric Bledsoe — the guard arrived late to Orlando after testing positive for the coronavirus — and the rest of the supporting cast bolster this contender.

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Kendrick Perkins and Zach Lowe break down what the Milwaukee Bucks need to accomplish this season if they want Giannis Antetokounmpo to sign an extension.

What’s at stake?
Over Antetokounmpo’s tenure in Milwaukee, the squad has gone from a 15-win team in his rookie season to an East juggernaut by putting together a strong front office and players to complement his skill set. But what happens inside the bubble could affect Antetokounmpo’s decision to remain in Milwaukee down the line. He obviously loves the city, but he wants to win now more than ever.

Big question after the layoff: Can the Bucks regain their momentum?
The Bucks weren’t exactly rolling when the season was shut down — Milwaukee lost four of the five games before the hiatus, the first time under head coach Mike Budenholzer that they dropped three straight regular season games. Can guys get back in that winning mindset? Will they be ready? Budenholzer said that all along they were “operating and functioning [with] a mentality that we will play.” With games finally starting, it’s time for the East’s best team to prove their dominant regular season was just the beginning.

Did you know?
The Bucks have beaten opponents by an average of 11.3 points per game, which would be the fifth-largest average margin of victory in NBA history. The four teams ahead of them — the 1972 Lakers, 1971 Bucks, 1996 Bulls and 2017 Warriors — all won titles.

— Eric Woodyard

2019-20 record: 49-14 (.778)
Vegas title odds: +180
Remaining schedule: LAC, TOR, UTAH, OKC, HOU, IND, DEN, SAC

Just when the Lakers were rolling — they won four of five, including statements over the Bucks and Clippers in consecutive games in early March — the season stopped. Now LeBron James, Anthony Davis and Co. will regroup and try to give Los Angeles its first title since 2010.

How they got here
The NBA’s hiatus in response to the coronavirus pandemic was nearing the two-month mark in late April when James took to Twitter to refute a report that some within league circles were calling to scrap the season. “As soon as it’s safe we would like to finish our season,” he wrote, in part. “I’m ready and our team is ready. Nobody should be canceling anything.” James, a top contender for MVP, playing alongside new teammate Davis, a Defensive Player of the Year candidate, appeared as motivated as ever after a rocky first year in L.A.

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Anthony Davis and Frank Vogel provide an update on Davis’ eye injury and whether he’ll be able to play against the Clippers.

What’s at stake?
Quite simply, this is perhaps James’ last and best chance to win his fourth NBA championship. At 35 and in Year 17 in the league, his hold on the sport can’t last forever. The Lakers’ success thus far has made Davis’ future plans a foregone conclusion — he holds a player option for next season, but nobody believes he won’t be back in purple and gold. James and Davis should get a chance to run it back next season no matter what happens in Orlando, but with younger teams like Milwaukee, Boston, Philadelphia and the LA Clippers on the rise, now could be the Lakers’ moment with key role player Dwight Howard headed to free agency and important contributors Danny Green and Rajon Rondo getting older.

Big question after the layoff: How will they replace Avery Bradley?
Bradley, who started 44 games for the Lakers this season, informed team management last week that he was opting out of the restart to remain with his family. ESPN’s Kevin Pelton wrote, “Bradley is regarded as one of the NBA’s top 3-and-D wing players — primarily thanks to his tough on-ball defense, though he has shot slightly better from 3-point range than league average this season and over the course of his career — but he might not even be the best one on the Lakers’ roster.” In addition to Green and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, the Lakers have Dion Waiters — who was signed just before the league shut down operations in March — and recently added former James teammate JR Smith.

Did you know?
James leads the league with a career-high 10.6 assists per game. At 35, he’d be the oldest player to lead the league in assists for the first time in his career.

— Dave McMenamin

2019-20 record: 46-18 (.719)
Vegas title odds: +1700
Remaining schedule: LAL, MIA, ORL, BOS, MEM, MIL, PHI, DEN

The defending champions will enter the restart firmly in second place in the East, three games ahead of Boston, and should still be in second when the playoffs start.

How they got here
With Kawhi Leonard and Danny Green departing in free agency last summer, Toronto wasn’t expected to remain in championship contention. And yet, despite every member of the rotation besides OG Anunoby missing significant time with injuries, the Raptors have stayed near the top of the East and remain a threat to make another deep playoff run.

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Kendrick Perkins insists the Toronto Raptors will top the Milwaukee Bucks if they meet in the Eastern Conference finals.

What’s at stake?
Toronto’s interest in pursuing Giannis Antetokounmpo in 2021 is no secret. Another deep playoff run would add to the sales pitch. In the shorter term, the Raptors will have to decide what to do with several key free agents this summer — led by guard Fred VanVleet and big men Serge Ibaka and Marc Gasol.

Big question after the layoff: Will the much-needed rest pay off?
The Raptors play a shortened rotation to begin with, and the cavalcade of injuries the team dealt with throughout the season took a toll on them. With a chance to enter the restart fully healthy and rested, Toronto will believe it can get back to a potential rematch with the Bucks in the Eastern Conference finals.

Did you know?
Without Leonard, the Raptors have a better win percentage (.719) and average scoring margin (+6.5) than they did during last season’s run to the NBA title.

— Tim Bontemps

LA Clippers

2019-20 record: 44-20 (.688)
Vegas title odds: +325
Remaining schedule: LAL, NO, PHX, DAL, POR, BKN, DEN, OKC

Ever since the NBA came to a halt in March, the Clippers have been eagerly awaiting and preparing for the season to return with one single goal in mind: the resumption of their title chase.

How they got here
The Clippers’ season has been defined by patience. They had to wait 11 games before Paul George made his Clippers debut. They had to wait until Christmas to have a fully healthy roster. With little practice time because of the schedule, injuries and Kawhi Leonard’s load management of a knee issue, the Clippers’ chemistry didn’t solidify until after the All-Star break. And just as the team began to get on the same page with new additions like Marcus Morris Sr. and Reggie Jackson, the Clippers were forced into a holding pattern due to the pandemic.

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David Jacoby questions the Clippers’ durability in the bubble, but Jalen Rose is adamant that, despite the setbacks, the Clippers will win the West.

What’s at stake?
The only focus the Clippers have had all season is on winning the franchise’s first championship. Not long after the NBA suspended the season, Clippers management secured Peloton bikes and gym equipment to provide their players with home gyms. Lawrence Frank, Doc Rivers and the Clippers held daily Zoom meetings and phone calls with coaches, players and staff members to not only keep everyone on the same page, but to also come up with any and every idea that could help the team win a title.

Big question after the layoff: Can the Clippers stay healthy with an unprecedented break in the season?
When the season came to a halt, the Clippers were getting stronger, winning seven of eight games, with their only loss coming to the Lakers. Rivers made the health of his team entering the playoffs paramount, and nothing changes now. The hiatus should only help Leonard and George health-wise. But with players having not played in a game in months, the Clippers will ramp up Leonard, George and veterans like Lou Williams — once the reigning Sixth Man of the Year clears quarantine — as safely as possible.

Did you know?
The Clippers bench averages an NBA-best 51.5 points per game this season. The only other team to average at least 50 PPG off the bench since starts were first tracked in 1970-71? Last year’s Clippers, who averaged 53.2 PPG.

— Ohm Youngmisuk

2019-20 record: 43-21 (.672)
Vegas title odds: +1500
Remaining schedule: MIL, POR, MIA, BKN, TOR, ORL, MEM, WSH

The Celtics head into the restarted season in a bit of a bubble themselves in the East standings — three losses behind the second-place Raptors and three losses ahead of the fourth-place Heat.

How they got here
After all of the tumult that followed Boston throughout last season, this season couldn’t have been more different. The Celtics had hardly a moment of difficulty at any point, cruising on a 55-win pace while seeing both Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown take significant leaps. Daniel Theis more than capably stepped into the starting center spot vacated by Al Horford, and Kemba Walker provided the stable leadership the franchise needed, even as he dealt with a knee issue for the final few weeks before the shutdown.

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Jackie MacMullan revisits where the Celtics left off before the league stoppage and takes a closer look at who they are upon their return.

What’s at stake?
Oddly, not a lot. Boston is good enough to make a deep playoff run and could even reach the NBA Finals for the first time in a decade. But for a team with a young core under contract through next season and beyond, this should be far from Boston’s final shot at making noise in the postseason.

Big question after the layoff: Is Kemba healthy?
Walker first missed games because of a knee issue, and then struggled upon his return. If he’s fully healthy, Boston will be a threat to beat anyone. There’s one other question surrounding the Celtics: Where will the 76ers wind up? Boston would be thrilled if Philadelphia can slide ahead of the Pacers and get into fifth place in the East. While NBA fans would love a Celtics-Sixers showdown in the first round, Boston would not — Philly won three of four meetings this season by an average of 10.3 points before a 116-95 Celtics win in the rivals’ final meeting.

Did you know?
Who says only Houston can play small ball? According to the Elias Sports Bureau, 93.4% of Boston’s points have come from players 6-foot-8 or shorter, the highest percentage by any team in a season since the 1989-90 Warriors (94.8%).

— Bontemps

2019-20 record: 43-22 (.662)
Vegas title odds: +1800
Remaining schedule: MIA, OKC, SA, POR, UTAH, LAL, LAC, TOR

There was a new feel for the Nuggets this season, with that uncomfortable “E” word hovering over them: expectations. They’ve been viewed all season as a top-tier contender, and for the most part, played like it.

How they got here
The start of 2020 was full of attrition for the Nuggets, but they weathered the storm to maintain their place among the West’s elite. And they did it largely behind the brilliance of Nikola Jokic. He carried them through an injury-filled January to set up the stretch run for Denver as they pushed for the postseason. Jokic is what props the Nuggets up, but in the weeks before the shutdown, Jamal Murray was getting healthy and progressing. Their two-man chemistry, combined with some well-rounded, versatile depth, has the Nuggets in the conversation.

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Nikola Jokic locates an open Bol Bol underneath the basket and delivers a no-look pass over his head for the easy dunk.

What’s at stake?
Last season was a resounding success for Denver despite a seven-game second-round defeat to the Blazers. This season, that kind of exit would be viewed as a disappointment. The playoffs ask questions you can’t anticipate, and they take storylines and narratives and amplify them. If the Nuggets struggle, it’ll be about the pairing of Jokic and Murray. It’ll be about the future of Paul Millsap and Jerami Grant‘s contracts. It’ll be about what they’re missing, not about what they have. When you get good, it’s what comes with the territory.

Big question after the layoff: Can Bol Bol make an impact?
After captivating NBA Twitter with a diverse, interesting skillset, Bol Bol has people wondering: Can he make a difference for Denver in the bubble? The Nuggets’ rotation is pretty stacked, and Bol got his shot largely due to the absences and delayed arrivals of a bunch of players, but the impression he made was strong. And in the West, added versatility and extra frontcourt options are sometimes the difference between winning or losing a series.

Did you know?
Jokic leads the Nuggets in total points, rebounds and assists, which he has done in each of the previous two seasons. According to Elias, Jokic could join LeBron James (2011-13 Heat) and Wilt Chamberlain (1965-67 76ers) as the only players in NBA history to lead their teams in all three categories for three straight seasons.

— Royce Young

2019-20 record: 41-23 (.641)
Vegas title odds: +6000
Remaining schedule: NO, OKC, LAL, MEM, SA, DEN, DAL, SA

The Jazz will finish the season without second-leading scorer Bojan Bogdanovic (wrist surgery) and with a spotlight on the dynamic between the cornerstone duo of Rudy Gobert and Donovan Mitchell.

How they got here
It had been a strange season for the Jazz even before their two best players became the sport’s poster boys for a pandemic after becoming the first NBA players to test positive for the coronavirus. Utah had a 19-2 stretch sandwiched by a lot of so-so basketball. Mike Conley Jr. had a harder time than anticipated adjusting to his new surroundings and system after spending the previous 12 seasons in Memphis. The Jazz had to remake the bench in midseason, trading for Jordan Clarkson, cutting Jeff Green and promoting Georges Niang and Tony Bradley to key rotation roles. Utah had won five of six games before Gobert’s positive test halted the season, and coach Quin Snyder felt like he had found some rotation solutions. But it’s back to the drawing board after Bogdanovic’s surgery.

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Mark Schwarz details how the Jazz can be successful in the NBA season’s restart.

What’s at stake?
Any expectations have been diminished drastically by the loss of Bogdanovic, a 20-point-per-game scorer whose 41.4% 3-point shooting was a critical element of the Jazz’s spacing. Could Gobert’s playoff performance impact potential offseason extension discussions? He’s eligible for the supermax, but it’s hard to see the small-market Jazz offering that much to a center who isn’t a primary scorer, no matter how dominant Gobert is defensively and on the glass.

Big question after the layoff: Can Gobert and Mitchell mend fences?
Jazz sources are adamant that they can and will, even if they won’t be singing kumbaya by the campfire, noting that they’ve had numerous, positive conversations with each other and in various virtual group settings over the summer.

Did you know?
Donovan Mitchell is averaging a career-best 24.2 points per game. That’s the highest scoring average by a Jazz player since Karl Malone in 1999-2000. Malone, Adrian Dantley and Pete Maravich are the only players in Jazz history with a higher single-season scoring average than Mitchell.

— Tim MacMahon

2019-20 record: 41-24 (.631)
Vegas title odds: +4000
Remaining schedule: DEN, TOR, BOS, MIL, PHX, IND, OKC, IND

Miami is primed to make a push in the bubble behind a fully rested and healthy Jimmy Butler. If Bam Adebayo can continue his star trajectory and veteran Andre Iguodala can provide veteran guidance, coach Erik Spoelstra has to like the chances of his team being able to make a run.

How they got here
The biggest revelation for the Heat wasn’t just how quickly they jelled behind Butler and Adebayo — it was the immediate impact of the younger players on their roster. Kendrick Nunn, Tyler Herro, Duncan Robinson and Derrick Jones Jr. all played important roles in the Heat’s success and depth. It will be interesting to see how much of a playoff impact former Finals MVP Iguodala — acquired from Memphis at the trade deadline — has with his new team.

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David Jacoby says he would pick the Heat to beat the Bucks if the two teams meet in the playoffs.

What’s at stake?
The challenge for the Heat is finding out just how far their current core can take them. Do they have enough with this group to push to the top of the East, or will they come up short and have to add another star-caliber piece when free agency opens?

Big question after the layoff: How will the neutral site impact Miami?
The Heat went 27-5 at home but 14-19 on the road this season. For a team that had an inside track at home-court advantage in the first round before the season was suspended, how the Heat respond to neutral-site games is key.

Did you know?
Adebayo is on pace to become the first player in Heat history to average 10 rebounds and 5 assists per game.

— Nick Friedell

2019-20 record: 40-24 (.625)
Vegas title odds: +6000
Remaining schedule: UTAH, DEN, LAL, MEM, WSH, PHX, MIA, LAC

Before the league shut down, the Thunder and Jazz were set for a game that would’ve tilted the current four and five seeds in the Western Conference. On the surface, the Thunder don’t seem like a possible top-four West contender, but strictly by the numbers, that’s what they’ve become.

How they got here
It was a rocky start for OKC, going 6-11 out of the gate with a variety of close losses and big questions. But it all turned right around Thanksgiving, with Chris Paul asserting himself as the league’s most dominant crunchtime scorer and the Thunder’s chemistry blossoming around a dynamic three-guard lineup. Since Thanksgiving, the Thunder are 34-13, piling up the second-most wins in the league in that span behind only the Bucks.

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Royce Young examines a red-hot Thunder team led by Chris Paul that will look to keep the momentum going when the season starts up again in Orlando.

What’s at stake?
The Thunder have been riding a wave of positive momentum throughout the season. They have big offseason questions looming, like possibly trading Paul to kickstart an inevitable rebuild that could include moving pieces like Dennis Schroder or Steven Adams. But along with it, coach Billy Donovan’s deal is up after this season. He has validated his coaching chops all season long, ascending into the Coach of the Year conversation, but where does he fit if the roster dominoes start to fall?

Big question after the layoff: Is the chemistry intact?
The Thunder currently hold the longest winning streak in the Western Conference. So, it’s only three games, but they walked onto the floor against the Jazz on March 11 — a game now set for Aug. 1 inside the bubble — with as much momentum as they’d had all season. Their last complete game was a stirring, emotional win in Boston on a last-second steal that pushed them to 16 games over .500. What has made the Thunder so dangerous this season has been their connection and chemistry. Paul sets the tone but has given plenty of space for Schroder to elevate as a scorer and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander to develop as a floor leader. Paul went to extended lengths to try to maintain some of that chemistry during the shutdown, but it’s one thing to get together on a weekly Zoom call; it’s another to make timely decisions in the last minute of a one-possession game.

Did you know?
The Thunder have 16 wins when trailing entering the fourth quarter this season, twice as many as any other team in the NBA and two shy of tying the 1962-63 Lakers for the most such wins in a season in the shot-clock era (since 1954-55).

— Young

2019-20 record: 40-24 (.625)
Vegas title odds: +1200
Remaining schedule: DAL, MIL, POR, LAL, SAC, SA, IND, PHI

The Rockets, who appeared to be running on fumes before the season was suspended, should be refreshed and ready to resume the NBA’s great micro-ball experiment.

How they got here
It’s been a roller coaster of a season for the Rockets, who underwent a significant roster remodeling over the past year. It started with the summer trade for Russell Westbrook. The midseason, all-in commitment to small ball (signified by trading Clint Capela and a first-round pick in a multi-team deal that brought Robert Covington to Houston) was influenced by the desire to unleash Westbrook in the open floor. The 6-foot-7-or-less Rockets started fast, but they faded, losing four of their last five games before the shutdown.

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Stephen A. Smith gives his take on why Russell Westbrook is the X factor to the Rockets’ championship push.

What’s at stake?
It’s no secret that there is a strong probability that the Rockets will have a new head coach next season. That’s been widely known since contract extension talks with Mike D’Antoni broke down (twice) in unusually public fashion. There are rumblings around the league that general manager Daryl Morey’s job status could be in jeopardy as well, but owner Tilman Fertitta was adamant he wouldn’t consider firing Morey (who has several years remaining on his contract) after the tweet that caused the Rockets and league’s relationship with China to deteriorate, and Fertitta hasn’t wavered on that stance. You can never be sure, especially if Morey is at the wheel, but the Rockets’ core likely returns intact next season regardless of the results in Orlando.

Big question after the layoff: Can James Harden get his groove back?
Harden had a historic two-month run, averaging 39.0 points per game on a sizzling 66% true shooting percentage from early November to early January. His heavy workload — both in minutes and the effort it takes to generate shots as an iso player facing frequent double teams — appeared to take a toll on him. Those numbers dipped significantly (29.0 points, 57.2% true shooting percentage) in his past 22 games as he struggled from 3-point range. Harden committed to conditioning during the hiatus, and if he regains MVP-level form, Westbrook continues his success in small-ball lineups and Eric Gordon can bounce back from an ankle injury suffered during the final scrimmage, the Rockets can be dangerous.

Did you know?
Since switching to the small-ball lineup on Jan. 31, the Rockets have been out rebounded by 9.4 rebounds per game, the worst rebounding differential in the NBA during that span. Over a full season, that would rank as the third-worst differential since rebounds were first officially tracked in 1950-51, according to research by the Elias Sports Bureau.

— MacMahon

2019-20 record: 39-26 (.600)
Vegas title odds: +12500
Remaining schedule: PHI, WAS, ORL, PHX, LAL, MIA, HOU, MIA

The Pacers have flown under the radar all season long. But despite dealing with injuries and going through a massive roster overhaul in the offseason, Indiana still found itself in the mix for a top-four seed in the East when the season was brought to a halt.

How they got here
Victor Oladipo, the team’s talisman, did not play his first game until Jan. 29. Malcolm Brogdon, the team’s marquee free-agent signing, missed 17 games due to injuries. And yet Indiana still managed to find itself in fifth place in the East when the season was suspended behind a frontcourt of T.J. Warren, first-time All-Star Domantas Sabonis and Myles Turner.

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Royce Young outlines the Pacers’ season before the shutdown and how dangerous this team could be in the restart if All-Star Victor Oladipo returns.

What’s at stake?
Whether Indiana can become a real contender in the East, or just a nice middle-of-the-pack playoff team, will likely center around two factors: whether Sabonis returns to Orlando after leaving to treat a foot injury, and whether Oladipo plays inside the bubble at all. What Oladipo’s future looks like, as well as whether Indiana tries to continue forward with the tandem of Sabonis and Turner long term, could be impacted by what happens in Orlando. Oladipo can become a free agent in 2021.

Big question after the layoff: What version of Oladipo will arrive?
His final game before the season was suspended was his best game of the season — a 27-point outburst against the Celtics. If Oladipo — who has played in scrimmages but remains undecided on returning for the restart — plays and can rediscover an All-Star level next to Brogdon, Indiana could be a difficult out in the East playoffs.

Did you know?
Indiana has been eliminated in the first round in each of the past four postseasons. The Pacers are one of eight teams to make the playoffs in each of the past four seasons, but they are the only one not to win a round.

— Bontemps

2019-20 record: 39-26 (.600)
Vegas title odds: +2500
Remaining schedule: IND, SA, WSH, ORL, POR, PHX, TOR, HOU

Philadelphia was one of the NBA’s most confusing teams this season. But after the long layoff, the 76ers will enter the bubble healthy and with a real chance to capitalize on their immense potential.

How they got here
The Sixers entered the season expected to battle with the Bucks for the top spot in the East. Instead, Philadelphia swung wildly back and forth from game to game, posting the NBA’s best home record (29-2) as well as the worst road record (10-24) of any playoff team in the league. They also dealt with ongoing turmoil about free-agent addition Al Horford’s fit, Ben Simmons‘ continuing lack of a 3-point shot and Joel Embiid dealing with more injuries.

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Jackie MacMullan reintroduces the 76ers and explains why a rested Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid could be poised to make noise in the Eastern Conference.

What’s at stake?
There may not be a team with more at stake than the Sixers. If this team flames out, will coach Brett Brown be dismissed? Will Horford be traded? Would the Sixers consider moving on from either Simmons and Embiid? So many things have changed the past few years in Philadelphia that it’s hard to believe even more could be in store.

Big question after the layoff: Can the Sixers finally realize their potential?
Not only is Simmons on the court again after hurting his back in February, he is playing a new position — power forward — and has, at least briefly, shown a willingness to shoot more 3-pointers after taking two in Philadelphia’s first scrimmage. All of this, though, is overshadowed by the question that has hung over the Sixers throughout their topsy-turvy season: Can they finally realize their potential? If they can’t, significant changes could loom in the offseason.

Did you know?
Before the season was suspended, the 76ers’ .641 difference between home and road win percentages was on pace to be the largest by any team since the NBA went to an 82-game schedule in 1967-68.

— Bontemps

2019-20 record: 40-27 (.597)
Vegas title odds: +3500
Remaining schedule: HOU, PHX, SAC, LAC, MIL, UTAH, POR, PHX

The Mavs are gearing up for what they anticipate will be the first of many playoff appearances for the star duo of Luka Doncic and Kristaps Porzingis.

How they got here
Doncic emerged as a legitimate superstar in his second season, running the league’s most efficient offense. Porzingis got off to a slow start as he chipped off rust and adjusted to a new role and system, averaging 22.3 points and 9.6 rebounds per game since New Year’s Day. Seth Curry and Tim Hardaway Jr. have been phenomenal complementary fits as spot-up threats (1.36 and 1.29 points per spot-up possession, respectively, ranking first and second among players with at least 150 opportunities). Extended injury absences for Doncic and Porzingis, and struggles closing out close games, prevented the Mavs from competing for the West’s second-best record.

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Lisa Salters breaks down why the Mavericks expect high-level production from a healthy Luka Doncic.

What’s at stake?
Dallas’ goal entering the season was to make the playoffs, so the Mavs are kind of playing with house money. They have their foundation pieces in place for the foreseeable future, and competing in the playoffs will be invaluable experience for Doncic and Porzingis as well as key long-term role players such as Dorian Finney-Smith and Maxi Kleber. The biggest offseason decision might be Hardaway Jr.’s player option for $19 million. It wouldn’t be stunning if he’s rewarded with a long-term deal.

Big question after the layoff: Can Doncic return to the MVP-caliber form he displayed before suffering two right ankle sprains?
The time off allowed Doncic, who was also dealing with thumb and wrist injuries, to heal. There were rumblings he gained weight during the league’s shutdown, but Mavs sources said Doncic was working out diligently while in Slovenia during the hiatus.

Did you know?
Doncic is on pace to become the third player in NBA history to average at least 20 points, 5 assists and 5 rebounds per game in each of his first two seasons in the NBA, joining Oscar Robertson and LeBron James.

— MacMahon

2019-20 record: 32-33 (.492)
Vegas title odds: +50000
Remaining schedule: POR, SA, NO, UTAH, OKC, TOR, BOS, MIL

The Grizzlies, one of the NBA’s most exciting surprises this season, hope to keep their grip on a playoff spot while continuing to develop a young core that should be competitive for years to come.

How they got here
The Grizzlies’ young talent has been good enough for Memphis to be competitive during what was expected to be a rebuilding season. Likely Rookie of the Year Ja Morant is a pure point guard whose athleticism and creativity routinely creates highlight reels. Jaren Jackson Jr. can score from the perimeter or in the paint and protect the rim. Draft steal Brandon Clarke is a dynamic finisher with a feathery touch on his floater. Dillon Brooks has been productive enough to earn an extension with an eight-figure salary. Jonas Valanciunas is a double-double machine. And rookie coach Taylor Jenkins has done a terrific job of guiding a developing team that’s also trying to win now.

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Kendrick Perkins explains why he is confident Ja Morant will lead the Grizzlies to 8-seed in the West.

What’s at stake?
Really, it’s all gravy for the Grizzlies. They basically punted on this summer when they took back salary in the trade for Justise Winslow and locked up Brooks for the next few years. (Winslow’s debut will have to wait until next season because he suffered a hip injury in an instrasquad scrimmage.) Morant, Jackson and the rest of the Grizzlies’ young core will get invaluable experience in meaningful, competitive games, no matter what happens in a potential play-in series.

Big question after the layoff: Can Ja Morant rise to the moment?
Morant often says he’s “built for the moment,” a mantra he frequently heard from his father during drills on the concrete court in the backyard of the family’s South Carolina home. He’s backed up those words during his likely Rookie of the Year campaign. Several of his best performances have come in wins under bright lights: a 30-point, nine-assist night against Brooklyn’s Kyrie Irving, a 27-point, 14-assist masterpiece against the Lakers and a 26-point, eight-assist affair when he missed only one shot against the Rockets. Morant also put on quite a show on the March Madness stage in 2019, dishing out 16 assists in a triple-double to lead 12th-seeded Murray State to a first-round upset win. Don’t bet on Morant bursting under pressure in the bubble.

Did you know?
Morant leads the Grizzlies with 17.9 points and 6.9 assists per game. According to research by Elias Sports Bureau, Morant can join Elgin Baylor (1958-59) and Michael Jordan (1984-85) as the only rookies since 1947 to lead a playoff team in PPG and APG.

— MacMahon

2019-20 record: 30-34 (.469)
Vegas title odds: +15000
Remaining schedule: ORL, WAS, MIL, BOS, SAC, LAC, ORL, POR

Brooklyn’s Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving, DeAndre Jordan, Spencer Dinwiddie, Wilson Chandler, Taurean Prince and Nicolas Claxton are all out of the bubble. Enter Jamal Crawford, Tyler Johnson, Justin Anderson and Lance Thomas, who are tasked with helping Nets core members Caris LeVert, Joe Harris and Jarrett Allen secure a playoff spot.

How they got here
The Nets’ success this season has come in bursts. After a flashy offseason in which they acquired Durant, Irving and Jordan, Brooklyn struggled to find a rhythm as key players suffered injuries. Irving had surgery in February after missing 26 consecutive games with a shoulder injury. LeVert missed more than six weeks with a thumb injury. Just before the break, the Nets dismissed Kenny Atkinson and elevated Jacque Vaughn to interim coach. The day before the league paused, Dinwiddie hit a winning shot to give the Nets a splashy win over the Lakers.

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1:11

Malika Andrews details how the Nets will utilize players in the Orlando, Florida, bubble, considering injured players and those out due to COVID-19.

What’s at stake?
The Nets will have eight games to establish their seeding heading into the playoffs. Brooklyn has just a half-game lead on the Magic for the No. 7 seed (the Nets’ playoff selection is top-14 protected, so if they finish as a non-playoff team, they would keep the pick.) The Wizards are 5.5 games behind Orlando and could make a push for the eighth seed.

Big question after the layoff: Can the Nets rally behind Vaughn?
Can the rest of the Nets’ young core prove oddsmakers wrong and make a deeper playoff push, even as the seventh or eighth seed? Brooklyn also has coaching decisions to make: GM Sean Marks put the team’s search on hold during the hiatus, saying it wouldn’t be fair to the group. The games inside the Orlando bubble could help Vaughn elevate himself among candidates for the permanent head-coaching job, or it could demonstrate that Brooklyn will need to ramp up its search in the offseason.

Did you know?
Though he has played only 20 games and is unlikely to return this season, Irving would be the only player in Nets history to average 25 points, 5 rebounds and 5 assists per game in a season. Brooklyn went 8-12 in those games.

— Malika Andrews

2019-20 record: 30-35 (.462)
Vegas title odds: +50000
Remaining schedule: BKN, SAC, IND, TOR, PHI, BOS, BKN, NO

Orlando is “hosting” the NBA restart, but the home team is just hoping to stay in the playoffs and find a way to gain more big-game experience for their younger players.

How they got here
Orlando had a rough stretch ahead of the All-Star break, during which it lost eight of nine games. The issue for the Magic is the same as it has been since they traded Dwight Howard — they don’t have a star player to lean on when times get tough. The season’s brightest spot came in an unexpected road win over the Lakers on Jan. 15: Markelle Fultz racked up a triple-double and hit some clutch shots down the stretch.

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2:25

The Magic’s Evan Fournier takes his Instagram followers through his first day inside the NBA bubble, including what items he has received to quarantine for seven days.

What’s at stake?
Evan Fournier is recovered from an elbow injury suffered in March and will be ready to play in Orlando’s restart opener. The broader question is what he decides to do after the season; Fournier has a $17 million player option for next season. With all the uncertainty surrounding the league’s future finances, the guaranteed money may look even more appealing.

Big question after the layoff: Can the young core step up?
Aaron Gordon has plenty of talent, but can he help the Magic push an opponent in the first round? Same goes for Fultz and Jonathan Isaac; they need to show development in their game for the Magic to finally move in a positive direction. While the Magic had some nice momentum at times, it still feels like they are at least a year, and another veteran piece away, from taking another step.

Did you know?
The Magic are likely to face the Bucks, Raptors or Celtics in a first-round series. They’re a combined 0-9 against those teams this season, which is the worst record in the NBA among teams currently in playoff position and tied for the second-worst among all teams against the top three teams in the East. Only the Cavaliers are worse at 0-10.

— Friedell

2019-20 record: 29-37 (.439)
Vegas title odds: +7500
Remaining schedule: MEM, BOS, HOU, DEN, LAC, PHI, DAL, BKN

Injuries derailed the Blazers’ attempt to build off last year’s run to the Western Conference finals, and a potential spot in a play-in tournament gives them the ability to salvage this season and make a run at the No. 8 seed.

How they got here
Already playing without starting center Jusuf Nurkic due to injury, Portland saw starting forwards Zach Collins (shoulder surgery) and Rodney Hood (Achilles’ tendon rupture) join him on the sidelines. All-Star point guard Damian Lillard put the Blazers on his back, but despite Dame’s heroics — and in part because of a sprained ankle that kept him out of the All-Star Game — the Blazers were still 3.5 games back of eighth in the West when play stopped.

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1:47

Mark Schwarz details the Trail Blazers’ upcoming schedule and whether Damian Lillard can continue his big-time performances and lead Portland back to the playoffs.

What’s at stake?
Hope. With Collins and Nurkic back and Lillard’s ability to heat up, Portland could be a formidable threat in the play-in tournament and even a scary first-round opponent for the Lakers — whom they defeated in Los Angeles during the first game after Kobe Bryant’s death. A playoff run, and competing there, would help the Blazers reassure themselves that this year’s below-.500 record was a product of injuries and not roster limitations.

Big question after the layoff: How much will Portland get from Collins and Nurkic?
Both big men have played well during the Blazers’ scrimmages, but we’ll see whether they immediately play starter minutes during the restart, or whether head coach Terry Stotts uses the luxury of having incumbent starters Carmelo Anthony and Hassan Whiteside to manage their minutes. It’s also uncertain how Anthony and Whiteside, starters throughout their careers, might respond to smaller roles.

Did you know?
Lillard has averaged 31.9 points per game at home this season, second most in the NBA behind only James Harden’s 34.1. Lillard’s scoring average drops to 25.9 on the road. That decline of 6.0 PPG is the largest of any All-Star this season.

— Kevin Pelton

2019-20 record: 28-36 (.438)
Vegas title odds: +5000
Remaining schedule: UTAH, LAC, MEM, SAC, WSH, SA, SAC, ORL

When the season was suspended, the Pelicans sat 3.5 games back of the Grizzlies for the eighth spot but felt optimistic about their chances thanks to their light schedule. Now? They will get some of that light schedule back, but with a shortened amount of time to make that push.

How they got here
A wrench was thrown into the Pelicans’ plans almost immediately when Zion Williamson was forced to undergo knee surgery the day before the regular season started. Coupled with other injuries and time missed, the Pels stumbled to a 7-23 start. The turnaround coincided with Derrick Favors returning, Lonzo Ball feeling healthy and Brandon Ingram turning into an All-Star. By the time Williamson returned in January, the Pelicans were already righting the ship and Williamson himself was putting up major numbers for a 19-year-old (23.6 points, 6.5 rebounds, 58.9% field goal percentage).

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1:19

Adrian Wojnarowski says that Zion Williamson’s return to the NBA bubble has a great deal of impact on the Pelicans, whose playoff hopes are on the line in the first eight games of the season restart.

What’s at stake?
A goal for the Pelicans this season was to play meaningful games in March and April with the young core, whether or not they made the playoffs. While it won’t be March or April, the Pelicans have that shot in Orlando as one of the six teams invited who aren’t currently in the playoffs.

Big question after the layoff: Is Zion in shape?
Williamson’s weight and conditioning has been a topic of concern for many throughout the NBA world, but the Pelicans have maintained that they were never worried. But will Williamson be ready to make an impact after nearly four months off? Williamson, who returned to Orlando on Friday night after leaving the NBA bubble for eight days because of a family emergency, returned to practice Wednesday.

Did you know?
Williamson has scored at least 20 points in 16 of his 19 career games. He’s the first player to record at least 16 20-point games within his first 20 career games since Michael Jordan in 1984-85.

— Andrew Lopez

2019-20 record: 28-36 (.438)
Vegas title odds: +200000
Remaining schedule: SA, ORL, DAL, NO, BKN, HOU, NO, LAL

The suspension came at a bad time for a Sacramento team that was playing some of its best basketball of the season. The hope for the Kings is they can keep things going and push into the postseason for the first time since 2006.

How they got here
Sacramento’s season has been defined in large part by long losing streaks at various points in the year. First, it was a five-game losing streak to start the season. Next, it was an eight-game losing skid to end December. Finally, it was a six-gamer in late January. The Kings deserve credit for bouncing back — winning seven of their last 10 before the season was suspended — but this is a team that has struggled all year to play with the edge needed to earn a playoff berth.

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1:21

As the NBA assembles in Orlando to resume the season, Marc Spears explains why Kings fans might have reason for optimism this time around.

What’s at stake?
Walton sounded optimistic that his young team can start to turn the corner, but it remains to be seen if this group is ready to prove that it can win games when they matter most. De’Aaron Fox, Buddy Hield, Bogdan Bogdanovic, Harrison Barnes and Marvin Bagley III were supposed to deliver a playoff berth for this group and be the core for a promising future, but up to this point there have been more questions than answers. Now, Bagley will miss the rest of the season with a foot sprain, Fox continues to recover from a left ankle sprain and Buddy Hield, Harrison Barnes, Jabari Parker and Alex Len all tested positive for COVID-19 before joining the Kings in the bubble.

Big question after the layoff: Playoffs!?
The biggest question for the Kings is whether they can find a way into the postseason. Despite the solid play of Fox and Hield, the Kings will likely be on the outside looking in once again unless the group can string together a lot of important wins in a short amount of time. The experience in the bubble will be good for them, but it would be a surprise if they can make it all the way into the postseason this year.

Did you know?
Before the season came to a halt, the Kings had gone 7-3 since the All-Star break, tied for the fourth-best record in the NBA.

— Friedell

2019-20 record: 27-36 (.429)
Vegas title odds: +100000
Remaining schedule: SAC, MEM, PHI, DEN, UTAH, NO, HOU, UTAH

San Antonio is in the midst of its worst season since 1996-97, when they finished 20-62 but got Tim Duncan as a consolation prize. The restart still gives the Spurs one more chance to make a playoff push.

How they got here
In very non-Spurs fashion, San Antonio struggled with finding consistency this season and was also one of the worst defensive teams in the NBA — 24th in defensive rating (112.8). They maintained their efficiency however on the offensive end with an 11th-ranked offense that led the league in assist-to-turnover ratio and committed the fewest turnovers in the league. San Antonio also remained balanced with seven players averaging at least 10 points per game.

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1:27

Royce Young explains how this year could be the end of a very long postseason streak for the Spurs.

What’s at stake?
For San Antonio, an NBA record. The Spurs have made the playoffs in 22 consecutive seasons, dating back to 1998. That ties them with the Syracuse Nationals/Philadelphia 76ers who also made 22 straight playoffs from 1950-71. If the Spurs, who are in 12th place but four games back of Memphis, can pull this off, they’ll be atop the record books alone.

Big question after the layoff: How much will Gregg Popovich have to balance youth vs. veterans?
Four of the Spurs’ top rotation players are north of 30 years old: DeMar DeRozan, LaMarcus Aldridge, Rudy Gay and Patty Mills. And now that Aldridge is sidelined for the season after right shoulder surgery, the Spurs will have to rely even more heavily on Dejounte Murray and Derrick White in the backcourt and Drew Eubanks and Jakob Poeltl in the frontcourt — all are rotation players in their own right — to keep the streak alive.

Did you know?
The Spurs, currently 12th in the Western Conference and four games behind the eighth-seeded Grizzlies, may need to go on a winning streak to have a chance to extend their postseason streak. However, the Spurs are one of four teams in the 22-team field that hasn’t recorded a winning streak of least four games this season (the Kings, Suns and Wizards are the others).

— Lopez

2019-20 record: 26-39 (.400)
Vegas title odds: +50000
Remaining schedule: WSH, DAL, LAC, IND, MIA, OKC, PHI, DAL

Last of the West teams invited to Orlando, the Suns are 2 1/2 games back of ninth place but have little hope of leapfrogging enough opponents to make the play-in tournament.

How they got here
Despite a PED suspension for 2018 No. 1 pick Deandre Ayton, the Suns got off to a fast start at 7-4 as they attempt to make the playoffs for the first time in a decade. Though Phoenix backslid to 13 games below .500 when play was suspended, the Suns’ 26 wins are still already their most since 2014-15, and Devin Booker became their first All-Star since Steve Nash in 2012. So there’s reason for optimism in Phoenix.

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1:04

Marc Spears details the Suns’ mentality heading into the NBA bubble, as they sit at the bottom of the Western Conference with a long shot to the title.

What’s at stake?
Honestly, not much, but the Suns will have some decisions to make whenever they begin the offseason. Assuming the salary cap doesn’t shrink dramatically, Phoenix could have room to make a run at another starter by renouncing the rights to free agents Aron Baynes and Dario Saric and declining Frank Kaminsky‘s player option. The Suns will get one last look at the current group to see whether it is worth keeping together.

Big question after the layoff: What could Ayton deliver?
Because of injuries and his suspension, Ayton played just 30 games before play stopped, but he showed promising signs as he boosted his per-game averages to 19 points and 12 rebounds while nearly doubling his blocks per game to 1.7. The more experience, the better for Ayton, which is perhaps the best thing to come from Phoenix heading to Orlando.

Did you know?
Booker is on pace to join LeBron James (four times) and Oscar Robertson (two times) as the only players in NBA history with multiple seasons with 26 points and 6 assists per game before turning 24 years old.

— Pelton

2019-20 record: 24-40 (.375)
Vegas title odds: +100000
Remaining schedule: PHX, BKN, IND, PHI, NO, OKC, MIL, BOS

Despite being 16 games below .500, the Wizards were the lone non-playoff team from the East invited to Orlando, giving them an opportunity to force a play-in tournament with a strong finish.

How they got here
This was supposed to be a rebuilding season for Washington, with point guard John Wall sidelined by Achilles surgery and dramatic roster changes necessary for payroll purposes. But the Wizards added quality pieces on the cheap to build an above-average offense around Bradley Beal. Washington was limited by the league’s worst defensive rating.

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1:15

Jorge Sedano explains the challenges the Wizards are facing as Bradley Beal and Davis Bertans won’t be with the team when the season resumes.

What’s at stake?
Whether Beal can make an All-NBA team. Among players who saw at least 25 games of action, Beal’s 30.5 points per game would be the highest scoring average ever for a player not chosen as an All-Star, and he and his fiance were upset over the snub. While Beal no longer has a financial incentive to make the All-NBA team after foregoing a possible supermax extension, it would help make up for the All-Star disappointment.

Big question after the layoff: How motivated will the Wizards be?
Though Washington has a path to the playoffs, forcing a play-in matchup in the East would require winning at least two more games than either the Nets or the Magic — and doing so as an underdog every time the team takes the court. With the league’s weakest teams not even traveling to Orlando, the Wizards’ minus-4.0 point differential is far and away the worst of any participating team (Sacramento is next at minus-1.9). The Wizards likely won’t be favored in any game they play.

Did you know?
Though he won’t be playing during Washington’s restarted season, Davis Bertans has already joined Beal and Gilbert Arenas as the only Wizards to make 200 3-pointers in a single season.

— Pelton

ESPN Stats & Information research contributed to this story.





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