As we strategy the 2020 postseason, the NBA title stays absolutely up for grabs. Nobody ought to be thought of a transparent favourite to win all of it, and given the quirks of the bubble surroundings, extra groups than ever are heading to the playoffs with visions of triumph. However one cause there is no front-runner — similar to the Golden State Warriors in recent times — is that every one these groups have weaknesses, and a few of these flaws will inevitably finish their seasons.
With all however one playoff spot secured, let’s roll by means of our second annual hater’s information for the postseason locks.
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Milwaukee Bucks: Giannis’ stroke
Most of the Bucks’ stats are superior, however at any time when opponents flip Giannis Antetokounmpo right into a bounce shooter or problem him to beat them at the line, he is not so scary.
Out of 127 gamers who’ve taken at the very least 300 photographs outdoors the paint, Antetokounmpo ranks 118th in effectivity, managing an efficient subject aim proportion (eFG) of simply 43.6%, per Second Spectrum.
Out of 27 gamers who’ve taken at the very least 300 free throws this season, Antetokounmpo ranks final in conversion charge (63%).
In a brutal loss to Dallas on Saturday, Giannis had a stretch through which he missed seven straight foul photographs, that includes two air balls. This dude and this team are persistently nice. However in the hardest matchups, Antetokounmpo’s capturing might swing issues.
Toronto Raptors: Shot creation
Can this offense get it accomplished? The Raptors have the 20th-best offense in the restart and no Kawhi Leonard. There is a cause gamers similar to Michael Jordan, Shaquille O’Neal and Tim Duncan had been so profitable in the postseason: They created their very own buckets in intense moments. Leonard supplied that juice in 2019, however who does that for this 12 months’s squad?
It takes a leap of religion to count on Pascal Siakam, Kyle Lowry or Fred VanVleet to fill that position. The Raptors do not function a single participant who has run at the very least 100 isolation performs whereas averaging 1.zero factors per likelihood. Most of the different contenders do.
Boston Celtics: The MVP
The Celtics are loaded with perimeter threats, however Giannis Antetokounmpo nonetheless eats Boston for lunch. Of their three matchups this season, Giannis has averaged 20.7 factors per recreation … in the paint alone.
Boston’s wings aren’t fairly large enough to thwart Antetokounmpo’s drives, and the bigs aren’t bodily capable of stifle him at the rack. It is a huge cause the Celtics have misplaced six of their previous eight to Milwaukee.
With the Bucks and Celtics beginning on reverse sides of the East bracket, Boston’s finest hope to make the NBA Finals is Milwaukee getting upset in the second spherical.
Miami Warmth: Jimmy’s buckets
That is considered one of my favourite underdog groups in the bubble, however their finest participant cannot make jumpers.
Jimmy Butler is amongst the league’s most tenacious opponents. He is additionally the not-so-proud proprietor of the NBA’s most crooked bounce shot.
Out of 154 NBA gamers who’ve taken at the very least 250 jumpers this season, Butler ranks final in effectivity by a mile. He is logging a ghastly eFG of simply 33.4% on his 262 makes an attempt. Even Russell Westbrook at second worst is hitting 39.9%.
Someway, Butler escapes the mainstream ridicule that haunts shooters similar to Westbrook, Antetokounmpo and Markelle Fultz, however all of these guys have been far more correct this season. You possibly can guess postseason opponents will dare Butler to get buckets with that wonky J.
Indiana Pacers: Shot food regimen
Listed below are two points that may decelerate the T.J. Warren expertise:
Nate MacMillan and his workers are amongst the most unheralded coaches in the league, however these two markers additionally counsel they’re a bit behind the curve in terms of discovering the least expensive factors on the ground. (Have not they watched James Harden?) This team has the makings of one thing particular, however they need to enhance their perimeter capturing and their capability to get to the stripe earlier than they develop into a professional menace.
Philadelphia 76ers: The match
The Sixers are the team that I hate to like. Philly is loaded with superior particular person gamers who simply do not mesh. Championship NBA groups at all times coalesce into one thing better than the sum of their elements, however these Sixers simply really feel like a set of mismatched items slogging their approach by means of video games.
Al Horford and Josh Richardson haven’t done a great job of replacing Jimmy Butler and JJ Redick. And with Ben Simmons now expected to miss the postseason, the Horford move becomes even more problematic. It’s hard to fathom how this team will create offense without their young catalyst.
Simmons led the league in 3-point assists despite being surrounded by a mediocre crop of shooting talent. With him out, how in the world will this team create easy looks?
Brooklyn Nets: Who he play for?
Are you excited for Chris “Cheese” Chiozza’s postseason debut? No? Well, the Nets might not be for you.
No offense to Cheese, but we thought we were getting Kyrie Irving and maybe even Kevin Durant by this point, and here we are watching Chiozza running around in sets designed by an interim head coach.
Who are these fellas? Why are they here? The Nets’ future is bright, but maybe one of these West play-in contenders should have their spot.
Orlando Magic: … welp
These dudes play the Bucks in the first round. They’re toast.
Los Angeles Lakers: All the bricks
The Lakers have been cold as ice in the restart, ranking 20th in net rating and 21st in points per possession. These aren’t good indicators for a title contender.
The biggest problem has been shot-making, especially from deep. They’re barely knocking down 28% of their triples, which is a bubble worst. The Lakers’ role players are going to have to start replicating Kyle Kuzma’s clutch performance from Monday for this team to reach its ultimate goal.
LA Clippers: On-court chemistry
We have barely seen these guys play together.
Lineups featuring all four of Kawhi Leonard, Paul George, Montrezl Harrell and Marcus Morris Sr. have logged only 34 total minutes this season. It takes a healthy dose of irrational confidence to assert that any group of players — no matter how talented and versatile — is suddenly going to coalesce into the best crunch-time squad.
The good news is that the Lakers have similar issues. The bad news is that both top contenders in the East have loads of experience playing together. The Clippers are going to need to figure some things out on the fly.
The Denver Sieves
The two best offenses in the bubble have been the Portland Trail Blazers and whomever is playing the Denver Nuggets. Portland leads all bubble teams by scoring 120.9 points per 100 possessions … but the Nuggets’ defense is allowing a ghastly 121.5.
That’s a giant red flag. It won’t matter how healthy Gary Harris and Will Barton are if this team doesn’t start getting more stops. The Nuggets likely will face a really good team in the first round, and that’ll be the only team they face this postseason without locking in on defense.
Houston Rockets: The interior
Houston’s microball experiment is certainly fascinating, but will it work in the playoffs?
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The truth is that nobody knows. Houston is 10-6 since the All-Star break and has put up a remarkable 49 3-point tries per game, but there are many reasons to be skeptical here. Not only are the Rockets now the worst rebounding team in the NBA — grabbing just 45.5% of available rebounds since their roster makeover — but their interior defense has also been the most generous to opponents.
It’s hard to fathom Houston getting past either Los Angeles team if the Rockets can’t get boards or protect the rim.
Oklahoma City Thunder: Paint production
The Thunder have trouble pressuring the rim, which is a key ingredient to playoff success. No OKC player ranks in the top 25 in points in the paint, and the team’s interior production has been an issue in the restart:
The Thunder rank last in the bubble by making just half of their paint shots
They rank second-to-last in paint production, yielding just 39 points per game
OKC’s most active paint shooters in the bubble have been Luguentz Dort, Hamidou Diallo and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander — not exactly a terrifying bunch. All three of these guys are making less than 45% of their paint attempts (the league average is 56%). Steven Adams is a monster inside, but he’s not enough by himself.
Utah Jazz: Some help for Mitchell
As soon as Bojan Bogdanovic was done for the year, Utah’s offense became a giant question. At this point in the bubble, the Jazz have no good answers.
Utah is managing only 108.4 points per 100 possessions. That’s bad and a big reason they are just 2-5 in Orlando, Florida. Donovan Mitchell is a great offensive piece, but none of the team’s wings or bigs can create offense. That’s a real flaw in a brutal conference teeming with superstars who can do just that.
Dallas Mavericks: Easy 3s
Luka Doncic is phenomenal on offense, but he doesn’t do much to help the Mavericks on the other end yet. Dallas plays above-average defense when he is on the bench and below-average defense when he’s on the court.
Down in Orlando, Mavs opponents are thriving on the perimeter, making 40% of their 3s in part because they are wide open. Doncic plays a role there. The league average for contest rate on 3s is 86.3% this season, per Second Spectrum tracking. When Doncic is on the floor, Dallas’ contest rate is just 82.7%. That’s the worst mark among the major MVP candidates.