With about a month to go before the 2019-20 NBA season resumes in Orlando, Florida, players continue to weigh whether they want to play inside the Disney bubble.
We've seen players like Davis Bertans and Avery Bradley opt-out due to personal reasons, leaving their teams to figure out how to replace them for a stretch run toward the playoffs. Perhaps no team has born the burden of players choosing to forego the rest of the season more than the Brooklyn Nets.
Already without Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving due to season-ending injuries, the Nets lost Wilson Chandler and DeAndre Jordan over the last week. Chandler opted out of the bubble for personal reasons and Jordan announced his decision not to go after testing positive for COVID-19. Spencer Dinwiddie also tested positive and is unsure whether to go to Orlando.
This leaves Brooklyn without its two superstars and if Dinwiddie opts out along with Chandler and Jordan, three key rotation players. Given the Nets are just half-a-game up on the Magic for seventh in the East and six games ahead of the ninth-place Wizards, could their depleted roster actually help Washington sneak into the postseason?
As the Wizards learned for a stretch in December and January, losing five of your top nine guys is quite the challenge to overcome.
The Nets' most common lineup that doesn't consist of Irving, Durant, Dinwiddie, Chandler and Jordan has only played a total of 26 minutes. The lineup includes Caris LeVert, Jarrett Allen, Timothe Luwawu Cabarrot, Taurean Prince and Chris Chiozza. Over a small sample size, that group scored 80.4 points per 100 possessions and had a net rating of -8.7. Their second-most used lineup has 12 minutes of playing time together and they posted a -2.5 net rating.
Brooklyn's starting five -- and Dinwiddie could always elect to go and change this completely -- figures to be Chiozza, LeVert, Joe Harris Taurean Prince and Jarrett Allen. Not a bad group by any means, but their depth will be significantly thinner than the rest of the teams in the bubble. Considering the increased chance of injury after a long layoff and the possibility of a player contracting the virus, this is all troubling to think about for the Nets.
The Wizards meanwhile, only have to draw within four games of the eighth seed in the East to force a play-in scenario. Bertans is their second-best player, but they still have Bradley Beal and, as of this moment, the rest of their roster on board for the bubble. The Wizards will play the Nets in the second of their eight-game slate (8/2 at 2 p.m.) in a matchup that could have a major impact on how the rest of the East shakes out.
Once Bertans decided against finishing the season, many believed the Wizards were unlikely to make the playoffs. That may still ring true, but the situation in Brooklyn has added a level of uncertainty to the bottom of the Eastern Conference playoff picture.
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