ROUNDBALL DAILY

Which teams will surprise in the NBA bubble?

The NBA is set to return in just a few weeks, and we can’t wait to see the world’s best basketball back on the court. It’ll look a lot different from the futuristic biosphere that they’ve set up down in Orlando, and all of the uproar means that perhaps the most predictable of American sports could get downright crazy.

There are so many variables, from who might have the coronavirus– or who might get it– to who’s been keeping themselves in shape, to which players actually had a hoop in their driveway to use during quarantine. Seriously, Giannis? But with all of the uncertainty, it’ll be worthwhile to keep an eye on SBD’s odds page for updated betting lines on all NBA games as we get closer to the playoffs.

So for an idea of some of the surprises we could see once the bubble inflates at the ESPN Wide World of Sports in Orlando, keep on reading:

A Raptors Repeat

No joke. People seem to think that when Kawhi Leonard ended his one-year sabbatical in Canada, the Raptors’ chances at a second straight title evaporated. But nobody told Nick Nurse, Pascal Siakam, Fred Van Vleet and the rest of this proud group of defending champs that.

Toronto will enter the bubble at 46-18, which is the exact same record the Raptors had through 64 games last season, with Kawhi. Siakam has taken yet another leap in his development, and now has the chance to prove that he can be the No. 1 option on a legitimate title contender.

A lot of so-called experts have decided that Boston and maybe Philadelphia (?!) are the only teams in the East that can challenge Milwaukee come playoff time, but that’s disrespectful to this confident, feisty group. They’ll be fiercely looking to defend their title.

A Cinderella In The Bubble?

The Mavericks have quietly had an outstanding season behind the prodigious Luka Doncic, and they were in prime position to surprise some people once the playoffs began. Dallas is 40-27, and despite its current position as the No. 7 seed, sits just 3.5 games behind Denver for the No. 3 spot in the West. With home court advantage nullified and with another training camp to get Doncic and Kristaps Porzingis more court time together, this team could make some moves once the tournament begins.

Blazers Playoff Streak Continues?

Perhaps no team benefits more from the the sabbatical than the Portland Trail Blazers, who will get injured bigs Jusuf Nurkic and Zach Collins back for the restart. Nurkic’s loss had been huge for Portland this season, and it was clear that the Blazers were not the same team without his presence inside. Now, this team resembles the group that ran all the way to the Western Conference Finals last season. There’s some ground to make up, but if they can finish within three games of the Memphis Grizzlies (they’re currently 3.5 back), they’ll get a chance to play their way in, thanks to the 8-9 play-in quirk that the NBA has added. Expect the Blazers to win that game, and to advance to the playoffs for the seventh straight year.

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