By: Robert Bishop
Back again, and another day, another massive injury in the NFL. Second-year receiver Deebo Samuel suffered a broken foot during a workout earlier this week, potentially costing him multiple games in the 2020 season. Samuel broke out in 2019 as a rookie, shining as an incredible after-the-catch playmaker for San Francisco. The 49ers offense is built around receivers capable of turning short completions into massive gains, and Samuel is by far the team’s best on the outside. First-round rookie Brandon Aiyuk will likely look to see an expanded role out the gate, though 2019 third-rounder Jalen Hurds and 2018 second-round pick Dante Pettis are highly intriguing options.
As part of the return of the NBA is the option for players to opt-out of going to the league’s bubble in Orlando. Without penalty—aside from forfeiting their salary—players can inform their teams that they will not be heading to Orlando. The deadline for players to inform their teams is June 24, next Wednesday. There has been chatter of many players weighing this option for COVID-19, on-court safety, or personal reasons. There likely won’t be a larger contingent of players going for this option, but the odds are strong as the deadline nears, rumors begin to circulate of star-level players considering it.
One of the stars likely to be weighing his options is Heat big man Bam Adebayo. A first-time All-Star this season, Adebayo is heading into free agency and looking to score a max-contract. The only thing preventing Adebayo from signing a massive contract this off-season is an injury. There is a significantly higher risk of on-court injury for players during the resumed season. Combining weeks away from basketball due to quarantine and an abbreviated training camp to prepare for the season, players are wisely operating with caution heading into the deadline.
Adebayo is likely to be there for the Heat given the team’s lofty playoff aspirations. The same cannot be said for another player facing a similar situation, De’Aaron Fox of the Kings. The Kings are longshots to do anything more than fill out the 22-team schedule to complete the regular season, making Fox a non-difference maker in the grand scheme of things. Though not heading to free agency this off-season, a catastrophic injury could doom Fox’s future earnings and Sacramento’s hopes of contending in the short term. Even if Fox is willing to play, Sacramento could opt to let him ride the pine during the team’s stay in Orlando.
Likewise, the Phoenix Suns, though boasting an exciting collection of young talent, will not be jumping into the playoff fray in the Western Conference. Because of this, the Suns will not be using wing Kelly Oubre Jr. in Orlando. During the first week of March, Oubre Jr. underwent knee surgery expected to sideline him for six weeks. Now nearly four months later, Oubre Jr. is likely healthy and ready to contribute. Phoenix seems to have a realistic view of things and won’t be rushing Oubre Jr. back to the court. Long-term, Oubre Jr. is part of an exciting core alongside Devin Booker and DeAndre Ayton looking to bring success to Phoenix next season.
Mid-season acquisition Justise Winslow appears poised to make his debut with the Memphis Grizzlies when the NBA returns. It won’t be easy to force Winslow’s unique skills into the lineup during the abbreviated training camp, but Memphis has a chance at maintaining its hold on the final playoff spot in the West. Working in Memphis’s favor is a 3.5 game lead over the rest of the contenders heading to Orlando, putting the Grizzlies in prime position to at least have the advantage during the play-in series. On the downside, forcing Winslow into the rotation could damage the chemistry of the upstart Grizzlies, setting the stage for another team to earn a playoff spot.