How Pacers star Victor Oladipo skipping NBA restart impacts Celtics

How Pacers star Victor Oladipo skipping NBA restart impacts Celtics

The Indiana Pacers' best player won't participate in the NBA's restart in Florida later this month.

The 2019-20 season is set to resume at Walt Disney World Resort, where 22 teams will play eight seeding games before a normal four-round playoffs with eight teams in each conference is played. 

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The Pacers are one of the nine Eastern Conference teams participating in the restart, and in an interview with Shams Charania of The Athletic, Oladipo explained his decision not to go to Orlando.

“I really want to play, and as a competitor and teammate this is tearing me apart,” Oladipo said, per Charania. “I feel like I’m at a great place in my rehab and getting closer and closer to 100 percent. With all the variables, from how I have to build my 5-on-5 workload back up, to the increased risk of a soft tissue injury which could delay my rehab, and the unknown exact set up of the bubble, I just can’t get my mind to being fully comfortable in playing. I have to be smart and this decision hasn’t been easy, but I truly believe continuing on the course I’m on and getting fully healthy for the 2020-21 season is the right decision for me.”

The Celtics and Pacers are not scheduled to play each other in the seeding games phase, which begins July 30. So, how could Oladipo's absence impact Boston? Let's break it down.

Playoff seeding
The Celtics will enter the restart as the No. 3 seed in the Eastern Conference with a 43-21 record. The Pacers are 39-26 and 4.5 games behind the C's. Indiana played well without Oladipo this season, but it's hard to envision a scenario where it doesn't fall to the No. 6 seed during the eight seeding games format. The Pacers and Philadelphia 76ers are tied for the No. 5 seed, and a healthy Sixers team bolstered by the return of All-Star point guard Ben Simmons should finish ahead of Indiana going into the playoffs. The Miami Heat are fourth in the East standings and have a two-game lead on the Pacers. Unless the Heat collapse, they should be able to hold the No. 4 seed. 

Therefore, it's very possible we could see a Celtics vs. Pacers first-round series in the No. 3 vs. No. 6 matchup. In fact, most projection models have the Celtics and Pacers squaring off in Round 1.

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Playoff matchup
The Celtics and Pacers played in the first round last season and Boston swept Indiana in four games. It wouldn't be surprising if the same scenario unfolded in 2020. The Celtics are a deeper and more talented team. They are actually the only club with three players averaging 20 or more points per game. The Pacers have zero players averaging 20-plus points. Boston also ranks higher than Indiana in points scored per, points allowed per game, rebounds per game, steals per game and blocks per game. The Pacers, when Oladipo is unavailable, don't have a go-to scorer who can create his own shot late in games. In the last game the Celtics played before COVID-19 halted the season, they beat the Pacers 114-111 in Indiana. The Pacers nearly pulled off the win late, and Oladipo scored 27 points on 9-for-16 shooting (5-for-7 from 3-point range).

In the overall playoff picture, it's so important for the Celtics to at least finish with the No. 3 seed. This could set up the easiest possible path to the NBA Finals. The Celtics wouldn't have to play the first-place Milwaukee Bucks until the conference finals if they finished as the No. 2 or No. 3 seed. A path to the conference finals that includes a Pacers team without Oladipo in the first round and a tough-but-winnable second-round matchup against the Toronto Raptors is a favorable one for Boston. It's a much better route than having to play the Philadelphia 76ers in Round 1 in the No. 4 vs. No. 5 matchup and then see the Bucks in Round 2.

NBA Awards finalists: Kemba Walker believes ex-Hornets teammate got snubbed

NBA Awards finalists: Kemba Walker believes ex-Hornets teammate got snubbed

Kemba Walker still has plenty of love for his former Charlotte Hornets teammates -- especially when he feels they're being disrespected.

The NBA revealed its individual award finalists for the 2019-20 season Saturday, among them the three candidates for Most Improved Player: Miami Heat forward Bam Adebayo, Dallas Mavericks guard Luka Doncic and New Orleans Pelicans forward Brandon Ingram.

If you ask Walker, though, that list should have included Hornets guard Devonte Graham. The Boston Celtics guard tagged Graham in the comment section of the NBA's Instagram post along with a "puzzled look" emoji.

Walker wasn't alone: Charlotte's P.J. Washington, Dwyane Bacon and Miles Bridges all replied with similar comments -- as did Graham himself on his own Instagram story.

"So disrespectful but it is what it is," Graham wrote Saturday afternooon.

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Kemba and Co. may have a case: Graham exploded for 18.2 points and 7.5 assists per game this season after averaging 4.7 points and 2.6 assists per game while backing up Walker as a rookie in 2018-19.

Then again, you also could make a case for two of Walker's current teammates in Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown, who both are enjoying career seasons for the Celtics.

Walker was very close with last season's young Hornets squad, though, so his support of Graham isn't surprising.

The C's will be shut out of this year's NBA Awards ceremony, as no Celtics players were named finalists for any award (despite Marcus Smart's early campaign for Defensive Player of the Year).

Here's the full list of finalists for each award:

Most Valuable Player
• Giannis Antetokounmpo, Milwaukee Bucks
• James Harden, Houston Rockets
• LeBron James, Los Angeles Lakers

Rookie of the Year
• Ja Morant, Memphis Grizzlies
• Kendrick Nunn, Miami Heat
• Zion Williamson, New Orleans Pelicans

Defensive Player of the Year
• Giannis Antetokounmpo, Milwaukee Bucks
• Anthony Davis, Los Angeles Lakers
• Rudy Gobert, Utah Jazz

Sixth Man Award
• Montrezl Harrell, LA Clippers 
• Dennis Schröder, Oklahoma City Thunder
• Lou Williams, LA Clippers

Most Improved Player
• Bam Adebayo, Miami Heat
• Luka Doncic, Dallas Mavericks 
• Brandon Ingram, New Orleans Pelicans

Coach of the Year
• Mike Budenholzer, Milwaukee Bucks
• Billy Donovan, Oklahoma City Thunder
• Nick Nurse, Toronto Raptors

Is Jaylen Brown the NBA's best shooting guard? Kendrick Perkins makes case

Is Jaylen Brown the NBA's best shooting guard? Kendrick Perkins makes case

Jaylen Brown didn't make the All-Star team this year, and you likely won't find him on a 2020 All-NBA squad.

But if you ask Kendrick Perkins, the voters should re-evaluate their choices.

After Brown dropped 20 points on 7-of-14 shooting and played impressive defense against Raptors star Pascal Siakam in the Boston Celtics' 122-100 dismantling of Toronto on Friday night, Perkins went on NBC Sports Boston's "Celtics Postgame Live" to drop a spicy take.

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"Jaylen Brown, to me, is the best all-around shooting guard in the league," Perkins said. "Pure point blank."

Brown is enjoying a career season, averaging 20.6 points on 48.8 percent shooting with 6.3 rebounds and 2.1 assists per game while continuing to play elite defense. The 23-year-old has been particularly hot of late, scoring 20 or more points in nine of Boston's last 10 games.

But is Perkins saying Brown is the best shooting guard in the NBA -- better than All-Stars like Bradley Beal and Devin Booker, not to mention MVP finalist James Harden?

Here's Perk's explanation:

He don't search for shots. He's not a high-volume scorer. But when you look up at the end of the night, he's got his 20 points on over 50 percent shooting. And he locks up the best guy every single night. You can't find that. And his playmaking is underrated. He's got a very high (basketball) IQ.

There are better scorers at the position -- including Harden, the NBA's most prolific scorer -- but you could argue Brown has become one of the league's strongest two-way shooting guards.

And Perkins very much would like to make that argument.

Perkins might take heat for declaring Brown the cream of the shooting guard crop, but his bold take shouldn't distract from the fact that the fourth-year wing is becoming an elite NBA player before our eyes.