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The Basketball Roundtable: “What-Ifs” Edition

Welcome to “The Basketball Roundtable”! Every so often, we’ll be throwing a few questions to some of our contributors, relevant to trending topics of news within the current week. This is meant to be a casual conversation, similar to those that we all have while sitting around a table. With that being said, welcome to “The Basketball Roundtable.”

  1. What if the 2019-2020 NBA season were to resume sometime in the next few months…which player would benefit from this time off the most?
NBA analysts decide: LeBron and AD or Kawhi and PG?
(© USA Today)

Sam Shin: I’d have to think the common answer here would be LeBron James, but I’m going to reverse course a bit and say Kawhi Leonard would benefit from the time off the most. In my opinion, LeBron was really starting to pick up steam as the season was hitting its close, and this quarantine has certainly halted that (at least, temporarily). While we can probably say that both LeBron and Kawhi may need some time to get the juices flowing, I think Kawhi gains the most from this time off just because of his troublesome knees. We saw how impactful “load management” proved to be last year for Kawhi during the playoffs, and there’s no telling what this time off will provide to his body in terms of the rest he may have needed throughout the season. There’s no doubt both LeBron and Kawhi will gain something out of this time off the court, but something tells me Kawhi will gain just a tiny bit more from the quarantine.

Gabe Rozier: LeBron is the clear winner in this scenario. He’s had to play 60 out of the 63 games the Lakers have played up to this point, so he hasn’t been able to take his patented two-week “Clutch Retreat.” He’s also the one player that I 100% don’t worry about when it comes to his post-quarantine play because of the meticulous way he’s taken care of his body and the resources he has at his disposal at home in order to stay in shape. If there was anyone in the world that had a Quarantine Workout Plan already set up before this all happened, it’s LeBron.

Kyle Wright: I agree with the others that LeBron and Kawhi would be the two players who stand to benefit the most from the extra rest. However, I’m going to go a different direction…and cheat a little…by picking two players: Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons.  Before playing on the same day that the NBA suspended its season, Embiid had missed the previous five games with a shoulder injury. Simmons hadn’t played in the last eight games, as he was to continue sitting out with a back injury. Philly has had an up and down season, largely thanks to poor roster construction and injuries, and they currently sit in 6th in the East. The fit isn’t perfect, but having two top-20 players matters, and the extra time off will allow Philly to be at full strength if the NBA does come back.

Sam Johnson: My answer is James Harden. We have seen him have playoff struggles over his Houston career and many think it’s due to him wearing down a bit. Defenses locking and scheming for him for an entire series certainly is a contributing factor as well, but I would love to see a rested and refreshed Harden if we were able to resume the year.

Harden takes on such an immense burden all season long to create shots and playmake (for himself and teammates), that I do think fatigue plays into his depressed postseason performance. He has shot under 30% from deep two of his last three playoffs, and his True Shooting % has gone from 61% down to 56%. Giving Harden the benefit of being fully rested come playoff time would benefit him most, and let us all see what he can really cook in the playoffs.

  1. What if the 2019-2020 NBA season were to resume sometime in the next few months…which team would suffer the most as a result of this time off?
How Monday's results impact the race for the No. 8 seed in the ...
(© India)

Sam Shin: There’s only one right answer here: the Utah Jazz. Oh man, have the Jazz gone through a whirlwind of events and emotions in the past month or so. From Rudy Gobert putting a halt to the entire 2019-2020 NBA season to Donovan Mitchell getting the coronavirus to potential “beef” between Mitchell and Gobert, the Jazz have seen it all. Anyone jealous? Cause I sure am not at all. Your two stars at odds with one another? Well, more like Gobert is apologetic and feels bad (obviously because he feels remorseful over his idiotic actions) and Mitchell is the one really heated about this (and understandably so).

Regardless of what the season looks like if it was to return, I just can’t see this working out for the Jazz if they keep both players. Even if things aren’t as bad as they seem, there’s no doubt it’ll be awkward, weird, and just an overall bonkers situation. Good luck, Quin Snyder.

Gabe Rozier: The teams vying for the 8th seed in the West are the teams that I think the restart will be most detrimental for, most notably the Sacramento Kings, who were 7-3 since the All-Star break and were playing their best basketball of the season up until the suspension. I think a young team like that feeds off game-to-game momentum, so I wouldn’t be surprised if they had a slow restart, seeing as they started the season 0-5.

If we’re looking at long-term detrimental effects, I would also consider the Portland Trail Blazers. If the goal is to win a championship, Portland is never getting as close as they got last year with the roster they are committed to. The season suspension, coupled with their injuries, gives their front office and ownership a built-in excuse to run this back instead of making wholesale changes that are probably necessary for them to improve their odds of winning a championship. 

Kyle Wright: I share the same sentiments as Gabe; the teams in the fight for the 8th seed in the West suffer the most, as they might not even get the chance to play out those games if the league decides to start straight at the playoffs. Specifically, I think the New Orleans Pelicans suffer the most. At the time the season stopped, the Pelicans sat 3.5 games out of the 8th spot. After battling through injuries and making an adjustment to their defense, the Pelicans were trending up, and then they added rookie sensation Zion Williamson – who averaged 23.6 PTS and 6.8 REB in 19 games.

On top of that, the Pelicans also had the league’s easiest remaining schedule to help the playoff push. Factor in that 7 of their last 18 games were against teams fighting for that 8th spot (Memphis, Sacramento, San Antonio), and you know the Pelicans had a real shot to make up that ground, but now we may never get to find out… 

Sam Johnson: I know a few people went with LeBron for benefitting from the layoff, but I’m actually going the other way and saying the Lakers are suffering most from the delay. Sure, LeBron is old, but haven’t we seen LBJ get stronger as the season goes on for the past decade? Playoff LeBron is a character that has been fairly unmatched throughout his career. When the going gets tough and the games played are climbing near the 100 mark for everybody, LeBron has consistently risen to the top.

We found out several years ago that he famously spends over a million dollars on his body per year and he has to have the best trainers, nutritionists, and every other thing under the sun that helps him maximize his fitness; I can’t imagine he’s getting full access and full use of all of these resources while he’s stuck in his home in LA. Also, the rest of the league is getting a big windfall of rest that they don’t normally get, which might be negating some of LeBron’s physical edge that he has maintained over his career. 

  1. What if the NBA was planning to resume the 2019-2020 NBA season…what would be the best approach to resuming games and why?
Can the NBA realistically resume its season after third player ...
(© Ashley Landis / The Dallas Morning News Staff Photographer)

Sam Shin: There’s a ton of ways this could go, but the rest of the season has to be shortened for sure. I like the recent reports regarding a mini training camp for each team, and on top of that, it would be beneficial to shorten the rest of the season to about 5-10 games for sake of time. A minimum of five games and a maximum of 10 is still enough to give teams a little bit of time to get acclimated again to game speed while also building up chemistry between players.

Regarding the setting and location of games, this is a tricky one. Ideally, we’d be able to return fans to games and play everything normal, but we all know that probably won’t be the case anytime soon. I do like the idea of the league moving all teams to a location like Las Vegas, with all teams just playing games one right after another – just like NBA Summer League. No matter what decision is made, I do believe that fans shouldn’t be allowed to return to games for the foreseeable future, at least not for the next few months.

Gabe Rozier: Unless the NBA can rework their agreements with regional sports networks, the NBA should try and finish out the season in order to cushion the budget shortfall that is likely to result. I like the MLB idea of sequestering everyone in one metropolitan area to finish out the season; Los Angeles is probably the most optimal area, since it has so many colleges and universities that might be able to keep up with the schedule, assuming the post-suspension schedule is the same NBA schedule post-March 11th –  with the addition of an abbreviated “Training Camp”.

However, if regional sports networks are willing to negotiate, playing all 82 games next season should be the main focus. If it were up to me, I would play the 2020 NBA Playoffs and move on to the 2020-2021 season, with the hope to start Christmas Day with a fully healthy and prepared NBA. It would also be interesting to see if not having to compete with the NFL at full-tilt does have a positive influence on total revenue like some people think it would. 

Kyle Wright: If the NBA were to resume its season, I think what the others said would be how I believe it could work as well. The problem? I’m not so sure the league is going to be able to come back. Adam Silver has said that no decisions will be made on how to potentially proceed before May 1st. He has also said that the league is taking any and all suggestions from everybody. Doesn’t sound too promising to me…  But I commend Silver for recognizing that this is not an NBA problem we are dealing with – this is a global, human lives problem.

Until we are able to slow or stop the spread of the novel coronavirus and are able to get access to mass testing, it is not realistic for the league to resume, even without fans.  Add in the health risks involved in gathering the players and staff even if those other issues are resolved, as well as the logistical concerns with a short time period and need to get players back up to speed. I want basketball back as much as anybody, but more importantly we need to make sure lives aren’t going to be at risk if games do resume.  

Sam Johnson: As I am no doctor or medical expert, I am thinking about this solely from the basketball perspective – I think that any portion of the regular season should be played for the sole reason of allowing teams and players to get back into game shape. On one hand, it will be strange to even see the Hawks and Cavs play a game when it means nothing (postseason-wise), but I think it would be important for TV revenue purposes and would be awkward if only 16 teams rebooted regular season play. Also, getting every team to 68-70 games would help to get playoff seeding solidified in a fair manner. If it were a video game and we could just start up the playoffs without players facing fatigue issues and heightened injury concerns, then I would say in the interest of time, to start the playoffs immediately.

While I hear Gabe and Kyle’s points on answers to #2, I am not overly concerned with teams getting a raw deal in not being able to chase the 8-seed. I would love to see Zion and Co. battle it out down the stretch with the Grizzlies (Kings & Blazers too), but over half of the league makes the playoffs as is and they did have 60+ games to get into the playoff picture. Whoever sneaks in is also very unlikely to factor into the championship race in a meaningful way anyway, as over 90% of 8-seeds see a very swift exit in the first round.

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