Much like their counterparts in Milwaukee, the Western Conference pace leader relies on its former MVP star. While the Lakers added Anthony Davis, arguably a top 5 player, the offense still looks a lot worse without LeBron on the floor, and they will go as far as LeBron takes them once the playoffs come rolling around. And when they do, they will need LeBron’s hamstring, which still seems to hamper him at times, to be as close to full strength as possible. With the amount of mileage LeBron has put on, any extra rest time will help in the long run. This hiatus will also give coach Frank Vogel more time to implement Markieff Moris and Dion Waiters.
There are only two players in their 30s in the top 10 in minutes played this year. Both of them play on the Rockets. Harden who turned 30 last August is tied for 2nd with a 23-year-old Devin Booker at 2241 minutes while the 34-year-old P.J. Tucker is 9th with 2203 minutes. LeBron and DeMar DeRozan are the only other players in their 30s in the top 20 and they are at 2094 minutes and 2091 minutes, which is good for 18th and 19th respectively. With the load that these two players must manage, Harden being the league leader in isolation plays and P.J. Tucker for playing center while being just 6ft 5, any time off will help them stay fresh and healthy going into the playoffs.
The Mavericks may not be favored to make any kind of playoff run, but they have surprised many already with their performance so far in the season. If they are to surprise people again in the playoffs, it will depend on how good their young cornerstone, Luka Doncic can be. He has been hobbled this year by sprained ankles and a left thumb sprain. This time off came at a pretty opportune time and should help him heal up his ankle a bit and get ready for what should be a tough matchup but must-see TV regardless.
Carmelo Anthony is not young, and Damian Lillard is the league leader in minutes played this season. But those aren’t even the main reasons this hiatus benefits this team possibly more than any other. They get Jusuf Nurkic back from the devastating leg injury he suffered last year. He was already scheduled to return March 15th, but now he will have more time to get in shape, and possibly practice if teams are allowed to do so. While people do not expect him to immediately come back and be the guy he was before the injury, he was a huger piece of their success and having him back will give them frontcourt depth, something they probably have not had consistently since Batum and Aldridge left, and it will give them some semblance of an emotional boost during a tough season as they get to see their teammate come back. If those things weren’t enough, this additional time will also help Zach Collins who is recovering from the shoulder surgery he went through earlier this season.
JJ Redick’s probable return will give the Pelicans the full roster they envisioned trotting out there until Zion Williamson got hurt earlier this season. With just 3.5 games in between them and the 8th seed, the young Pelicans look to make a push in what has been an unpredictable yet always fun to watch season.