Russell Westbrook and James Harden

Orlando Florida is the destination for the NBA’s season restart, where the organisation has set up a ‘bubble,’for teams and families of the players to stay and live in during the remainder of the season.

Walt Disney World is the resort in which this plan surrounds, in hope of solving the playoff seedlings. The Washington Wizards, Orlando Magic and Brooklyn Nets all fight it out for the 8th seed in the Eastern Conference. Meanwhile in the West, five teams chase down the Memphis Grizzlies for the final playoff spot.

Ultimately the break has raised many questions within the basketball world, the main one being what individuals will play in the restart due to the unfortunate death of George Floyd, to players contracting Covid-19, each person has their own reasons and beliefs on participating in the restart.

HOUSTON ROCKETS

Recently it was announced that Russell Westbrook and James Harden were going to be arriving to the bubble later than their teammates. Former OKC Thunder point guard Westbrook had announced that he had contracted the virus, and will be attending training sessions once he has been given the all clear. The latter has been reunited with his teammates this past week and will be hoping to cause the upset in the West. The duo are undeniably in the debate for the best 1-2 punch in the NBA, currently.

With that said, a lot of the Houston Rockets’ play goes through Westbrook, who can go through stints of being inconsistent on the floor, when it comes to getting teammates involved and hitting shots, Westbrook needs to perhaps focus on this a little bit more in order for the Rockets to succeed.

James Harden is as clutch as it comes, with ‘The Beard’ being a dominant 3-point shooter who can be relied upon to produce big shots in big moments. Harden will have to find his form again, as the former OKC 6th man of the year looks to topple the two giants of LA. At 16/1 to win outright, it’s worth a few pounds as they are a high-scoring team, who have a very high percentage of shots to be taken from behind the key.

The risk-reward scenario has paid off for the Rockets in many occasions, but in order to compete with the top three teams in the betting, their defence will need to be tighter and the tempo of their game will need to be quickened. If the two stars of the team can produce big numbers in the stat region, there’s no reason why they can’t go all the way.

LA LAKERS

The Houston Rockets will have to go through the favourites in the LA Lakers, who are my pick to win it all. Many within the sport have said that the break has helped LeBron James, in gaining some rest time. But in all honesty, it will not have impacted the veteran much. He would’ve rested throughout the regular season and the restart in itself has crammed a large number of games into a short amount of time.

The team have had a slight makeover during the pandemic. Free-Agent veteran JR Smith has been added to the team, as Avery Bradley has claimed that he will not be participating in the restart of the season. The former Cleveland Cavalier will provide his new team with depth and a shooters hand to the secondary lineup. Despite this addition, the loss of Rajon Rondo through injury will mean that either Alex Caruso or Kyle Kuzma  promoted to the starting five. With this change, the bench may find it hard to pick up points considering they found it difficult to provide some scoring threat at the start of the season.

Dwight Howard has decided to return to basketball, after initially deciding to sit out in light of the Black Lives Matter movement. His presence on the court cannot be matched, as his aggressiveness and defending has been a major factor in the team’s success of being 1st in the West.

‘The King’ will be in top shape however, when the restart gets under way for the purple and gold on 31st July, against the LA Clippers.

With the fire power they possess, I don’t see anyone toppling Anthony Davis and LeBron James from winning the Larry O’Brien trophy. AD is having his best season in terms of three-point shooting, with a 33.5% average this year which is amongst the league’s best. At a shared price of 12/5 along with the Milwaukee Bucks, Frank Vogel and Co would take the trophy home if these two teams met in the finals.

MIAMI HEAT

At 10/1 to win the conference, the Miami are a team not to be taken lightly.

With the addition of Jimmy Butler this season, the heat have managed to bring in a leader that is surrounded by players who have the same work ethic as him. Currently 4th in the East, Erik Spoelstra has been able to piece together a team that plays physical defence, that plays fast tempo basketball and a team that is very hard to beat as a collective. Bam Adebayo, Tyler Herro and Kelly Olynyk are just a few names of talent that is on hand for the former Philadelphia 76ers star.

It’s hard to see past the Milwaukee Bucks in the East, as Giannis Antetokounmpo has been on a mission to be seen as the most dominant player in the league.

I wouldn’t be surprised to see the Heat take the Greeks team to 7 games, and potentially win the series against the favourites from the East.

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