By: Robert Bishop
Back again, and Orlando is among the teams preparing for the resumption of the NBA season, but it appears as if the Magic will not have one of its better players for the duration. Jonathan Isaac, a superstar defender who has shown tremendous growth as an offensive player, has been sidelined since January 1 with a knee injury. There was optimism he’d be able to rejoin the Magic for the playoffs before the suspension of the NBA season. Unfortunately, it appears the pandemic also presented a speed bump for his rehabilitation. Orlando is unlikely to make noise in the playoffs, with or without Isaac, as a first-round date with the Bucks or Raptors is a near certainty.
Nuggets big man Nikola Jokic emerged as a viable superstar worthy of MVP consideration last season, and his follow-up campaign has been equally impressive. What hasn’t been impressive is Jokic’s conditioning. Jokic’s struggle to maintain adequate game-shape makes reports that he has taken the time since the season’s suspension to improve his conditioning incredibly encouraging for Denver. The Nuggets have roster capable of winning it all this season and having Jokic in great shape and ready to roll when the season tips-off would be a massive boon to the team’s championship push. Denver currently sits in third place in the West, 1.5 games behind the Los Angeles Clippers.
Among the teams on the outside of the NBA’s 22-team bubble headed for Orlando to complete the season are the Minnesota Timberwolves. Despite a hot start to the season, the Timberwolves will end the 2019/20 season with an awful 19-45 record. Karl-Anthony Towns’ injury woes were a big reason for the team’s struggles. Towns played in 35 games, averaging a career-best 26.5 points-per. A healthy Towns paired with Minnesota’s mid-season moves and a pick atop this summer’s draft are cause for optimism going forward.
Minnesota’s most significant mid-season move was to jettison Andrew Wiggins—and his albatross contract—to the Golden State Warriors for guard D’Angelo Russell. Though he has a flawed skill-set of his own, Russell represented a massive upgrade over Wiggins, and the prospect of pairing Russell with Towns on offense is exciting. The Timberwolves also acquired guard Malik Beasley in a deal with Denver. In 14 games with Minnesota, Beasley scored over 20 points-per-game. The Timberwolves have pieces in place to be a sneaky-fun watch this fall.
With a favorable fortune in the draft lottery, the Minnesota Timberwolves will be selecting first in this summer’s draft. However, the best odds to land the first overall pick belong to the Golden State Warriors. Over the weekend, reports surfaced that the Warriors are focused on Georgia guard Anthony Edwards, news that runs counter to the assumption that big man James Wiseman would be the first name off the board on draft night. As far as roster construction goes, Wiseman makes a lot more sense for the big-man needy Warriors, whereas Edwards would represent depth behind the duo of Steph Curry and Klay Thompson.
Another option for Golden State is dealing the prospective pick, as the window for the Warriors to win is now, and adding a rookie—even an incredibly talented rookie—may not find the time frame of Golden State’s rostered stars. Curry, Thompson, Draymond Green, and Andrew Wiggins represent a solid core that could be heightened by Golden State shopping its first-round pick for a veteran-led package on the trade market. Golden State’s intentions aren’t evident as of yet, but it is tough to foresee the team committing to adding a first-round building block to a roster ready for its final push to another championship.