The Celtics have a great core of wing players. Kemba Walker, Gordon Hayward, Jaylen Brown, and Jayson Tatum. While his individual skills can be overlooked at times, Marcus Smart can also be mentioned as he is as important to that team, and Brad Stevens’ system as anyone else is. The big problem though is that in only 14 of the teams’ 64 games, have all 5 of those players been healthy. They had been inconsistent as of late so if they are able to get healthy during the league’s hiatus, they could possibly come back playing their best basketball of the season, reminiscent to the start they had that saw them having one of the best records in the NBA after the first 10 games.
The Sixers will get much-needed rest physically, as well as mentally. This season has been a roller coaster ride for the team and fans alike. They came into the season as the team most likely to challenge the Bucks in the conference finals with acquisitions of Al Horford and Josh Richardson. But in the last couple of months, the critics have become louder and have pinpointed their lack of shooting, depth, and maturity as a major concern. The frustrating thing is, at home, they still look like a team that can end up in the finals. When they are firing on all cylinders, they are a great defensive team, that uses its length to get out in transition and has utilized its 6 foot 10 point guard to terrorize opponents. When they are playing at their best, they are able to complement Simmons’ strength with Embiid’s ability to be the best post player in the league on any given night. But the problem is how often they don’t seem to have an identity and how bad they look on the road. When they are at their best, they can beat anyone, but at their worst, which is concerningly often, they can also be beaten by anyone. This break could help Brett Brown, who has been under a lot of criticism himself, try to find out a better and more consistent system while giving Ben Simmons, who has been out a few weeks with a back injury, time to recover.
The Milwaukee Bucks, despite having the best record in the NBA, had been struggling going into this suspension. Giannis, who many still have as the front runner for the MVP award for a second straight year, recently suffered a knee injury against the Lakers.
While the injury turned out to be nothing serious, the Bucks will only be as good as Giannis is, and if they are to win their first championship since 1971, they will need their star forward to be as healthy as possible. The good news is that Giannis had returned to practice before the hiatus was announced.
Victor Oladipo came back just over a month ago after suffering a ruptured quad tendon last year. While he has had his moments and shown flashes on being himself, rival coaches believe he is still a full offseason away from returning to his pre-injury form. The Pacers, with the improvements from Domantas Sabonis, and the play of Malcolm Brogdon, have been one of the surprise teams of the season so far. This hiatus could give Oladipo and Brogdon, who was supposed to miss a few weeks, time to recover, they could be another team that makes a dark horse run at the conference finals.
The Miami Heat may be the most surprising NBA team this season. Many expected to be better with Jimmy Butler but the ascension of Bam Adebayo to stardom and the unexpected strong start from rookies Tyler Herro and Kendrick Nunn sees the Heat currently standing at 4th in the Eastern Conference at 41-24. They have no major injuries or identity problems like the aforementioned teams, but Jimmy Butler, Tyler Herro, and Meyers Leonard all have minor injuries and if nothing else, this time off will give the Heat time to implement recent acquisition Andre Iguodala more and that may be a scary thought for other teams as he figures to play a bigger part come playoff time.