Previewing the Bubble, Part II: The Grand Floridian Teams
July 26th, 2020
By Alan Lu
The NBA is coming back, and 22 teams will be playing in Orlando, Florida, starting on July 30th. They have separated these teams into three groups that will be staying in three different hotels, the Gran Destino, the Grand Floridian, and the Yacht Club. Right now, all of the teams that are slated to miss the playoffs are staying at the Yacht Club, while all the teams with the best records are staying at the Gran Destino. Also, by the way, if you haven’t grabbed your copy of Richard Lu’s the NBA Draft Almanac, 2020 edition, as you can buy the book online from Amazon, you should do so, for the rest of you, here is my write-up of what to expect out of the teams that are staying at the Grand Floridian Hotel.
The teams that are staying at the Grand Floridian are the mid-tier teams that all are slated to make the playoffs, but do not have the best records in the NBA. This grouping consists of the Oklahoma City Thunder, Philadelphia 76ers, Houston Rockets, Indiana Pacers, Dallas Mavericks, Brooklyn Nets, Memphis Grizzlies, and the Orlando Magic.
Essentially, all of the teams that are staying at the Grand Floridian will be playing in eight regular season seeding games. The play-in tournaments and the playoffs will then begin in mid-August, and that is where things will really kick off.
There is a significant concern, and the coronavirus situation is still going on, as there is not a cure or a vaccine for that yet, and playing basketball this season still may pose as a considerable health risk, which could lead to players turning down this event. For those that will be there, they have the chance to have the opportunity to help their team get to the postseason, and they will try to help them get the NBA championship this season.
For the purposes of this article, this is to project which teams will likely finish with the most wins at the end of the regular season, which seed they may end up with after facing teams in Orlando, and who is the most likely to win the title.
Last summer, the Thunder decided to take their team apart after they had a disappointing post-season finish in which they lost to Portland in the first round of the 2019 NBA playoffs after winning 49 games in the regular season. They traded Russell Westbrook to Houston for Chris Paul, and Paul George to the LA Clippers, and plenty of people assumed that they had immediately decided to go for a rebuild. Some inquired if they were going to also move Paul, but luckily for Oklahoma City, they opted not to, as they held onto him, and decided to lean on him for leadership and guidance.
Instead, the Thunder continued to march forward as they opted not to go for a full-scale rebuild, and they have assembled a cohesive basketball team that operates well together, and they have surpassed expectations, as they have won 40 of the 64 games they’ve played this season, and suddenly head coach Billy Donovan may be in the running for the Head Coach of the Year award.
This season, Chris Paul is the team’s heart and soul, and is their on-court leader, as he has provided them with strong distribution skills, and has provided them with consistent shooting and scoring for them. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander has really elevated his game, as he looks to be a budding superstar on the rise that has provided them with very good shooting, scoring, and playmaking skills. Meanwhile, 6-10 forward Danilo Gallinari is a very good shooter and scorer that create mismatches that swing in his team’s favor, and Dennis Schröder is a nice change of pace point guard that can really score the basketball. Plus, they also have strong interior defenders in having Steven Adams and Nerlens Noel, and they also have talented wing players and a stretch big in Mike Muscala that help round out the rotation.
Oklahoma City is a defensive-minded team that rates fairly well on that side of the floor. They are 10th in points allowed per game, 13th in field-goal percentage defense, and they do a good job of getting their opponents to miss shots. On the downside, they rate as being in the middle of the pack in getting steals and blocks, and they rarely outrebound their opponents when pursuing boards.
However, they strangely rate as a below-average offensive team. On the bright side, they are 5th in field-goal percentage, and the Thunder also does a very good job of taking care of the basketball. However, they are 18th in points scored per game, 18th in three-point percentage, and are 28th in assists per game. The Thunder generally struggle to consistently space the floor or score points in volume, and they have not collected many assists in relation to other teams.
In head-to-head matchups, the Oklahoma City Thunder have fared pretty well against the teams that currently will be staying in their hotel. They have excelled against Houston, and are currently undefeated against Brooklyn and Orlando. While they have split games against Dallas, Memphis, and Philly, they are winless against Indiana so far this year.
However, the Thunder has not fared nearly as well against the top 4 teams in the West. They are winless against the Lakers this year, and have struggled considerably against the Clippers, but have split games against Denver and Utah.
Like Indiana, the Thunder has fared well against the non-top 4 teams in their conference. They are a re-energized team under head coach Billy Donovan and superstar point guard Chris Paul, but they will need to improve their shooting and get others to be more involved on offense, but they are talented enough to be a upper middle-tier playoff team heading into the postseason.
End of Season Projection:
5th seed in the West, on the road against Utah in Game 1 of the 1st Round
Last season, the 76ers were one of the most intriguing wildcard teams in the playoffs. Executive Elton Brand pulled off major trades to haul in Jimmy Butler and Tobias Harris to pair them with superstar big men, Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons, and they took the eventual champions, the Toronto Raptors to 7 games before losing on a game-winning shot in the second round that was made by Kawhi Leonard. Since then, they have re-signed Tobias Harris and signed Al Horford via free agency, but ultimately chose to let Jimmy Butler go to Miami. The 76ers have won 39 of 65 games this season, but have struggled to find chemistry with both Embiid and Simmons at the same time.
Joel Embiid is the focal point of his team’s offense, and he is a superstar center that has very good low post scoring skills, and he also can space the floor. Tobias Harris is a do-it-all-wing player that has excelled in a complementary role, and Al Horford has shown off strong playmaking skills this season. Rookie wingman Matisse Thybulle has played excellent defense for them this year. Plus, they also have Josh Richardson, and they also have up-and-comers such as Furkan Korkmaz and Shake Milton that can shoot the ball and facilitate to round out the rotation. 6-10 point forward extraordinaire Ben Simmons has come back from a back injury, and time will tell if the 2-time All-Star has improved his jump shot enough for him to finally mesh well with Embiid in the lineup.
As a team, the Philadelphia 76ers really excel on defense. They do a very good job of preventing opponents from scoring the basketball, and they also grab plenty of steals and blocks in games. However, they also rate as average in preventing opponents from making shots consistently.
On offense, they rank as above average in making shots consistently, they pass the ball well, and they also take good care of the basketball. However, because they play at a significantly slower pace than other teams, the 76ers only rank 21st in points scored per game.
In head-to-head matchups, strangely, the 76ers have not really fared too well typically against the other teams in their hotel or against other teams that are slated to make the Eastern Conference playoffs. Amongst teams in their hotel, they have had the most success against Memphis and Brooklyn, and have split games against Oklahoma City, but are winless against Orlando, Houston, and Dallas. Against the top 4 teams in the East, they have beaten Boston 3 out of 4 times, but have struggled against Milwaukee, Toronto, and Miami.
They are a very talented team that is also one of the tallest teams in the league, and they boast having a strong defensive unit. However, they have actually struggled against playoff-level teams, especially in the East. They haven’t really hit their stride consistently, as they have struggled to flourish when both Embiid and Simmons are on the floor, and their inconsistent play could be troublesome come playoff time.
End of Season Projection:
5th in the East, on the road against Miami in Game 1 of the 1st Round
11. Houston Rockets
Year in and year out, the Rockets have been a solid playoff team due to having a perennial contender for the MVP award in superstar guard James Harden, and head coach Mike D’Antoni has helped Houston muster up a good offense annually.
However, they’ve always tended to fall short in the playoffs recently, and they lost in 6 games to Golden State in the second round last year, as they were unable to beat them even when Kevin Durant was out due to injury, which was Houston’s best chance to prove to doubters that they could be a credible playoff team. To be fair though, Golden State still had a stacked team, and they were viewed as the favorite and the team to beat coming into the 2019 playoffs.
This season, the Rockets have decided to revamp their team by doing away with a traditional center in their lineup, and they traded Clint Capela in a four-team trade that mostly netted them Robert Covington, and they also have been playing P.J. Tucker at center. They played well right away after that trade, but then hit a late season slide. Right now, they still have won 40 of their 64 games, and they are at a spot where they may be fringe contenders for the title this season.
This year, the Rockets are led by James Harden, who is a triple-double threat that averages a whopping 34 points per game. He is a tremendously efficient scoring point guard that has a knack for getting to the free throw line, and he has mastered the art of hunting for fouls to perfection. The Rockets traded to get Russell Westbrook in the offseason, and together they have formed a formidable backcourt duo that averages over 60 points per game when they play together. In addition, the Rockets also surrounded them with a group of shooters and wing defenders that round out their rotation.
As a team, the Rockets are an above-average team on offense. They are 2nd in points scored per game, and they have also made the most three-point shots amongst teams this season. However, they are not as efficient as people may be led to believe they are. Currently, they are just 22nd in field-goal percentage, 23rd in three-point percentage, and are a ghastly 29th in assists collected per game. The Rockets play at a fast pace and ramp up a lot of possessions, but they struggle to make shots efficiently, and they actually do not get many assists compared to the other teams in this league. As a team, they do a middling job of taking care of the basketball.
On defense, they may rate as about average. They are 22nd in points allowed per game, 15th in field-goal percentage defense, but the Rockets do a good job of getting steals and blocks in games. They actually do a pretty good job of getting their opponents to miss three-point shots. While they are 14th in total rebounds collected, opponents generally grab considerably more rebounds than them in games.
In head-to-head matchups, the Rockets have fared decently both against the top 4 Western Conference teams and against the teams in their hotel. The Rockets have split games against the Lakers, Clippers, and the Nuggets, and they have won 2 of 3 games against Utah. Against the teams in their hotel, they have fared well against Memphis, Philadelphia, and Indiana, have split games against Dallas, Brooklyn, and Orlando, and only have won one of three games against Oklahoma City.
Houston has been a solid basketball team this year, and they’ve shown that they can hold their own against the toughest teams, and they have one of the best players in the league in James Harden. Their commitment to center-less and position-less basketball is an intriguing one, and time will tell if they can consistently defeat the taller, more physical teams in their league. Houston comes in as one of the top teams in the Grand Floridian Hotel, and they will likely win a handful of games in Orlando.
End of Season Projection:
6th in the West, on the road against Denver in Game 1 of the 1st Round
12. Dallas Mavericks
Last year, Dallas was in a rebuilding year, as they won 33 games, and ended up missing the playoffs. This season, they have already won 40 games, and 2nd-year player, Luka Doncic has averaged nearly a triple-double per game, and has averaged roughly 29 points per game, as his tremendous play has turned him into an MVP contender for this season. He along with head coach, Rick Carlisle have transformed their team into being a solid playoff club once again, and Dallas will be heading to the playoffs at the end of the regular season.
Dallas also has a very good center in Kristaps Porzingis, who possesses strong scoring skills as he can make shots from all over the floor, and he is an athletic big man that can rebound and block shots. Tim Hardaway Jr. and Seth Curry provide their team with solid shooting and some scoring skills, and Delon Wright is a very good defensive guard that can play multiple positions. Meanwhile, they also have some shooters to round out the rotation.
Dallas is a very good offensive team. They can put up a lot of points, as they are 3rd in points scored per game, and they are a solid shooting team that can get buckets. They do a good job of taking care of the basketball, and they also do an above average job of collecting assists.
Defensively, they rate as above average. They are in the middle of the pack in preventing opponents from scoring points, but they play solid field-goal and three-point percentage defense to prevent them from making shots efficiently. Dallas does a good job of rebounding the basketball, but they are in the middle of the pack in blocking shots, and rarely collect steals compared to the other teams.
In head-to-head matchups, Dallas has struggled against the top 4 teams in the West, but they have fared well against Denver. They have played considerably better against the other teams in their hotel, as they have beaten every single team in their hotel at least once.
Dallas has been one of the most exciting teams in the league, as they are led by the superstar tandem of Luka Doncic and Kristaps Porzingis. They have a strong offense, but they will face some tough teams in their schedule, as they face the LA Clippers, Utah, Houston, and Milwaukee, which could slow them down a bit just before they head into the postseason.
End of Season Projection:
7th seed in the West, on the road against the LA Clippers in Game 1 of the 1st Round
13. Indiana Pacers
The Pacers have remained afloat as a mid-tier playoff team, despite not having Victor Oladipo for the last half of last season, and for the first half of this season. Head coach, Nate McMillan has done a very good job of running the team in his absence, and Oladipo was able to come back late in the year just before the season was suspended.
Meanwhile, the Pacers have gotten strong production out of center Domantas Sabonis, whose provided them with solid inside scoring, rebounding, and playmaking skills, and likewise with point guard Malcolm Brogdon. Plus, T.J. Warren has also excelled as a shooter and scorer for his team this season. Myles Turner is also a solid player that can help space the floor and protect the paint. Adding to that, the Pacers have a group of capable shooters, interior defenders, and ball movers to round out their rotation. On the downside, Domantas Sabonis had to leave the bubble because he injured his foot.
As a team, they rate as an above average team on offense. Though they rate 22nd in points scored per game, the Pacers are an efficient team that excels at making shots efficiently, and they are also move the ball well. They rate as 3rd in field-goal percentage, 12th in three-point percentage, and 6th in assists per game. The fact that they have a 6-5 guard that averages over 7 assists per game in Malcolm Brogdon, and a center that averages 5 assists per game in Domantas Sabonis is impressive in itself.
They also are a good defensive team. The Pacers are 7th in points allowed per game, 8th in field-goal percentage defense, and 6th in three-point percentage defense. The Pacers do a good job of forcing misses and of not allowing opponents to score often. They also do an above average job of blocking shots, but they do not collect as many steals as the other team.
In head-to-head matchups, the Pacers have struggled considerably against the top 4 Eastern Conference teams, as they have had trouble beating Milwaukee, Toronto, or Miami consistently, but have split games against Boston. Against the teams in their hotel, they have fared very well, as they may be a sleeping giant in this new format. The Indiana Pacers have excelled against Philadelphia, Brooklyn, Orlando, Oklahoma City, and Memphis, and have also split games against Dallas. They have played Houston once, and lost to them.
Though Indiana has generally struggled against the top teams in the East, they have played well against virtually all of the other teams in the NBA. They are a solid defensive team, and they get great ball movement, as their center is one of the beset passers in the league. On the downside, they will likely be without Domantas Sabonis for the entirety of when they are in Orlando. Indiana has all of the makings of a team that would likely fare well in Orlando, and they will likely will be a mid-tier playoff team heading into the postseason.
End of Season Projection:
6th seed in the East, plays on the road against Boston in Game 1 of the 1st Round
14. Orlando Magic
The Orlando Magic were able to make it to the playoffs as a 7 seed last year under head coach Steve Clifford, and they managed to get a career year out of first-time All-Star center, Nikola Vucevic. This season, they seem almost poised to make another playoff run, as they currently are in the driver’s seat for the 8 seed in the Eastern Conference. Vucevic has been their team’s bst player once again, and they’ve received consistent scoring from Evan Fournier and Terrence Ross.
Vastly athletic combo forwards, Aaron Gordon and Jonathan Isaac are players that can do a little of everything, and point guard Markelle Fultz has finally found his stride, as he has excelled as the team’s starting point guard in his first full season away from Philadelphia. Plus, they also have shooters and rim protectors to round out their rotation.
As a team, they will need to improve their offense. Orlando does a great job of taking care of the basketball, but they have trouble making shots consistently, and they are among the league’s worst in points scored per game. They also rate in the middle of the pack in assists per game.
They are a strong defensive team. They do a good job of preventing opponents from scoring many points, and they will grind the tempo to a halt. Orlando plays good field-goal percentage defense, and they will get numerous blocks and steals, but they will also allow their opponents to make threes, and opponents tend to grab more rebounds than them.
In head-to-head matchups, Orlando has struggled mightily against the top 4 teams in the East, but they have fared decently against the teams in their hotel. Orlando has played well against Philadelphia, Brooklyn, and Memphis, and have split games against Houston, but they have yet to beat Indiana, Oklahoma City, or Dallas this year.
On paper, it seems as if Orlando is at best a fringe, playoff team, and at worst a team that should maybe be in the back half of the lottery, as they are a young, inexperienced team that struggle to make jump shots, and have trouble generating offense. On the plus side, they actually are currently projected to make the playoffs, and they have fared well against some of the teams that are staying in their hotel. With Brooklyn holding their two best players out due to injury, and Washington being 5 ½ games back of Orlando, Orlando has a good chance to make it to the playoffs once again this year.
End of Season Projection:
7th in the East, on the road against Toronto in Game 1 of the 1st Round
First-year head coach, Taylor Jenkins has done a very good job, as he has teamed up with rookie point guard, Ja Morant to help lead the Grizzlies, and they have surpassed expectations by far. They have nearly eclipsed last year’s win total, as they are one win off from the previous season, despite only having played 65 games so far. Ja Morant has been an electrifying playmaker that has revitalized the city of Memphis, and he and their team have brought back the Grit N’ Grind mentality that makes the city go.
In addition, Jaren Jackson Jr. is a very athletic big man that can make shots from all over the floor, and he is a solid marksman from beyond the arc. Jonas Valanciunas is a solid low post scorer that rebounds the ball well, and Dillon Brooks and Brandon Clarke are efficient scorers that can put the ball in the hoop. Even better, they have managed to make former top 5 pick, Josh Jackson a useful player in the NBA once again, and he has helped provide some offense and energetic defensive play in his time up in the league. Plus, they also have solid defenders and ball movers to round out their rotation.
Memphis is a good offensive team that looks to be re-energized this yar. They pass the ball very well, and they are 7th in field-goal percentage, as they excel at making two-point shots. They also do an above average job of scoring the basketball, but they rank below league average in three-point percentage or in turnovers per game.
They are also a good rebounding team, and they do a good job of cleaning up on the glass. However, they are about average on the defensive end. Memphis generally plays solid field-goal percentage defense, and they can get plenty of steals and blocks. However, they tend to allow their opponents to make threes, and they tend to allow opponents to score quite a bit per game.
The Grizzlies have tended to struggle against the top 4 teams in the West, and against teams in their hotel, they haven’t fared much better. They have not beaten Philly or Indiana this year, nor have fared well against Houston or Dallas, but they have split games against Oklahoma City, and they are undefeated against Brooklyn so far.
Memphis has been one of the more pleasant surprises in the NBA, as they are currently in the drivers’ seat for the 8 seed, and they have a leading contender to win the Rookie of the Year award in having exciting first-year point guard, Ja Morant. However, the Grizzlies will face a challenging schedule, as they will play against Utah, Oklahoma City, Milwaukee, and Boston, and they have lost both games to New Orleans this year. Things could be cutting it pretty close for Memphis, and both New Orleans and Portland are talented enough to force a play-in game with Memphis at the end of the regular season.
End of Season Projection:
8th seed in the West, plays the play-in game against Portland, with the winner playing the Los Angeles Lakers in the 1st Round
16. Brooklyn Nets
The Nets will be without their two best players, Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving, and they had replaced former head coach Kenny Atkinson with former Orlando Magic head coach, Jacque Vaughn shortly before the season was suspended due to the coronavirus. Right now, Brooklyn currently would have the 7 seed in the East, even though they are an under .500 team right now.
They have a fairly solid playmaker in Spencer Dinwiddie, who possesses solid scoring and facilitation skills, and he is a tall combo guard that can ably play either backcourt position. Joe Harris is a very good shooter, and Caris Levert is a solid all-around player that can do a little bit of everything. Taurean Prince is a role player that can 3 and D, and Jarrett Allen and DeAndre Jordan are rim protectors who will provide Brooklyn with solid defense in the middle.
As a team, they may rate as a below-average offensive team. They struggle to make shots consistently, and they do not take care of the basketball very well. They rate as around the middle of the pack in assists per game, but rank as slightly below average in points scored per game. Brooklyn rebounds the ball very well as they’ll tend to out-rebound their opposition, and they are 2nd in total rebounds collected per game.
Defensively, they may rank as a middle of the pack team on that side of the ball. They do a good job of playing field-goal percentage defense and three-point percentage defense, and they will get their opponents to miss shots. However, they also do not collect many steals or blocks, and opponents tend to score quite often in games.
In head-to-head matchups, they generally struggle against the top 4 teams in the East, but have fared well against Boston. Against teams in their hotel, they have struggled mightily, and they are winless against Orlando, Oklahoma City, and Memphis this year, but have split games against Houston.
Brooklyn will be without their two best players, so they will likely not be nearly as competitive as the other teams in Orlando. On the plus side, they did get a lot of newcomers that will be joining them, including former three-time 6th man of the year award winner, Jamal Crawford.
Currently, they are a full 6 games in front of the current 9th seeded team, Washington, so it’ll be tough for the Wizards to gain much ground, even if the Nets struggle to win many games towards the end of the regular season. Also, Washington will be without John Wall or Bradley Beal. Therefore, if Brooklyn loses the majority of their games in Orlando, the Nets still could be a likely bet to make the playoffs as a 7 or 8 seed.
End of Season Projection:
8th seed, on the road vs. Milwaukee in Game 1 of the 1st Round
Thoughts and Other News in the NBA:
Philadelphia’s rookie swingman, Matisse Thybulle has a unique YouTube TV show that depicts life in the Orlando bubble, and what it is like for NBA players to live there. It is called Welcome To The Bubble, and you should definitely check it out.
Dallas Mavericks’ forward, Maxi Kleber has some serious DJ skills. He managed to get a handful of his teammates to dance to his music, as they were all also socially distanced, and he also managed to get Luka Doncic to come to his party. Check out this tweet by NBA Bubble Life, and you’ll be happy for having done so.
Thank you for reading the second preview edition of the NBA Bubble in Orlando. In a few days, we will be previewing the top teams that are currently staying at Gran Destino. It will be fun watching NBA basketball, as they are currently playing in exhibition games right now. Thanks for reading.