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A guide for the neutrals: Picking an NBA team to support for the season restart in Orlando

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With the NBA season restart just days away, fans are ready to watch their teams return to the court in pursuit of an NBA championship.

But what if your team didn't make it down to Orlando? Or if you don't have a team at all?

We've got you covered with a complete guide to the 22 teams at Disney World in the 'NBA bubble' and their compelling case for your eyeballs ahead of the July 31 season resumption.

Los Angeles Lakers: King James

You don't have to search too hard to find arguments that lead you to follow the Lakers. For starters, they are one of the leading favourites for the title, which is a bonus for anyone looking for a sporting joy. Beyond that, the mere presence of LeBron James, who remains as one of the league's most dominant players at age 35, is reason enough to choose L.A.

Seeing LeBron in the playoffs is one of the biggest draws the league has had in the last 15 years and after a 2019 post-season without his presence, we are ready to see the King in action at the business end of the season, in search of his fourth championship and first with the Lakers.

And the supporting cast? J.R. Smith! Alex Caruso! Dion Waiters! JaVale McGee! Highlights - and memes - galore!

Milwaukee Bucks: The MVP

Milwaukee has been the best team in the regular season, and with their dominance over the Eastern Conference, they are the team best positioned to advance to the NBA Finals.

The road to the Larry O'Brien trophy hinges on the play of Giannis Antetokounmpo, who has taken his game to new heights this season. After winning MVP last season, he is on track to repeat this year, while also putting in a strong candidacy for Defensive Player of the Year.

MORE: Predicting All-Defensive Teams

A Bucks championship would usher in a new era in the NBA, with Antetokounmpo as the league's top dog. If you're looking for a changing of the guard, Milwaukee is your team. Get on the bandwagon now, because Giannis getting a title seems to be just a matter of time.

Additionally, the Bucks have the best defence in 2019-2020 and one of the most dominant of all time. If you're all about defence, look no further.

Los Angeles Clippers: The little brother

Do you have a soft spot for David and Goliath? Have you ever been in the shadows of an older brother or sister? If so, the Clippers are your choice.

Since arriving in Los Angeles, the franchise has always been overshadowed by the presence of the Lakers and has never advanced beyond the second round. Time and time again, their fans have suffered tragic defeats, relinquished leads and failed to deliver in their most important games.

Will 2020 be the year that story finally changes?

The presence of two-time Finals MVP Kawhi Leonard, along with the likes of Paul George, Lou Williams, Montrezl Harrell and Patrick Beverley, more than increase those chances of breaking through once and for all. The Clippers are finally ready to face the giant.

Toronto Raptors: Defending the throne

Speaking of Kawhi Leonard ... his departure from the reigning champions seemed to leave the Raptors with no chance of being a contender again this season. Not only has Nick Nurse's squad remained competitive this season, but they also have a higher winning percentage than last season: 72% vs. 71%.

There are plenty of reasons to root for Toronto - from Pascal Siakam's transformation into a superstar, the explosion of Norman Powell, Marc Gasol's veteran savvy, Kyle Lowry's ferocity, Nurse's tactical ingenuity, and many more.

The Raptors are not going to give up the belt without a fight and even without Leonard's presence, they are still a team nobody wants to cross in a seven-game series.

Boston Celtics: Professor Stevens

After a difficult 2018-2019 campaign, the Celtics have once again become a team tailored to their coach, Brad Stevens. Without a 'superstar' (although Jayson Tatum has quickly morphed into one), the Celtics have a talented, well-balanced roster, with a strong combination of youth and experience, ready to make some noise in the East.

Stevens has already shown his genius in past playoffs and looks set to repeat it this year. Few coaches can have an imprint as big as Stevens, with his playcalling and After Time Out plays, but this playoff run will be a huge test for the 43-year-old.

If you're looking for tradition and history, look no further than the team with the most championships of all time.

Denver Nuggets: The Joker

Over the years, there have been plenty of questions surrounding Nikla Jokic, from his playing weight (which he has more than worked on over the break) to a perceived lack of killer instinct late in games. Well... I invite you to forget about all that because I am convinced none of those arguments does justice for a man who is perhaps the most skilled player in the league.

Jokic is not only very good - he is one of the best players in the league. The numbers speak for themselves, as do his heroic performances from the 2019 postseason.

I don't think there is a more underrated team than the Nuggets right now and if you want to watch entertaining basketball, led by the magical Serbian, the Nuggets are your team - a team that could cause plenty of surprises in the Western Conference.

Miami Heat: Positionless basketball

As the modern NBA deviates further away from strict positions - a trend initiated by the Golden State Warriors and Houston Rockets - the Miami Heat aren't far behind when it comes to on-court flexibility.

A backcourt featuring Goran Dragic, Kendrick Nunn, Jimmy Butler, Tyler Herro and Duncan Robinson, combined with the interior of Bam Adebayo and Meyers Leonard shows a traditional lineup of sizes on paper, but despite their plethora of guards, it's Adebayo who leads the team in assists (5.1) and is often the initiator of their offence.

With the additions of other versatile wings like Jae Crowder, Andre Iguodala, and Solomon Hill, expect to see many curious lineups from coach Erik Spoelstra. If innovation is what you're looking for, the Heat is the right team.

Philadelphia 76ers: The darkhorse

Out of the teams that are usually mentioned among the favourites for the title, Philadelphia could very well be the team with the highest ceiling. So far, they have struggled to capitalize on that potential, but as Brett Brown continues to tweak his lineups, they just might be the surprise team in Orlando.

MORE: What moving Ben Simmons to PF means

Meanwhile, Joel Embiid will look to overcome some poor playoff performances over the past two seasons with a strong showing in Orlando. Philly is healthy, underrated and on any day, can upset anyone in the East.

Utah Jazz: Friends again?

Are you waiting for a Hollywood ending? Quin Snyder's team could be just that, considering the apparent rift that exists - or existed - within the All-Star duo of Donovan Mitchell and Rudy Gobert. Both players have declared that they are ready to leave their issues behind and focus on the resumption of the season, so we must take them at their word.

The absence of Bojan Bogdanovic, who will miss the restart after undergoing wrist surgery, is extremely painful, but if Utah somehow manages to find its best rhythm, it would not be a surprise if it advances further than many think. As winning solves nearly everything, any issues present between Mitchell and Gobert will likely be a thing of the past.

Oklahoma City Thunder: The Kings of drama

If you are looking for an adrenaline rush, OKC is the team for you. No team has played more close games than Oklahoma City in 2019-2020.

42 of OKC's games have been within five points in the final five minutes and the Thunder aren't just there to entertain, they're made a habit of emerging victorious in those tightly-contested battles. In those 42 games, they hold a record of 29 wins and 13 losses.

Chris Paul has consistently come up in the clutch this season, scoring a league-leading 146 points in the clutch, ahead of Trae Young (125) and Nikola Jokic (119) and he's doing it while shooting a ridiculously efficient 53.5 percent from the field.

Houston Rockets: The ultimate small-ball experiment

If you want something completely new and experimental, there is no better option than that of Houston, which in the weeks prior to the season suspension took small-ball to the extreme.

After trading centre Clint Capela, the Rockets opted to play without a traditional big man, choosing to utilize wings P.J. Tucker and Robert Convington inside, while unleashing the Russell Westbrook freight train to the rim.

How will that work out in the playoffs? Can their reserve 'bigs' hold their own against the 7-footers of the league when they come across the likes of Anthony Davis, Nikola Jokic, or Rudy Gobert? Or will Russell Westbrook and James Harden's offence be enough to negate their shortcomings?

If the Rockets experiment proves successful, we could be witnessing another revolution around the league.

Dallas Mavericks: Luka Magic

You don't have to argue too much to choose a team that has Luka Doncic, right? The Slovenian is one of the best players the NBA has ever seen at the age of 21 and in just his second year in the league, he is already a strong MVP candidate.

While this will be his first NBA postseason, his record in Europe and in international FIBA tournaments have shown that we can expect plenty from the rising star.

How far will the magic of Luka go in Orlando?

Indiana Pacers: Pick-and-roll power

If you love pick-and-roll offence, the Pacers are the team for you.

In a league heavy on pick-and-roll to create offence, the Pacers have two trusty bigs inside in Myles Turner and Domantas Sabonis to find. They lead the league with 9.5 possessions per game finding the roll man, with the Raptors measuring second at 8.6.

The execution of that action between the likes of Malcolm Brogdon and Sabonis is simply a joy to watch.

Memphis Grizzlies: The youth revolution

The Grizzlies are the biggest surprise of the 2019-2020 season. After being projected by many to be at the bottom of the Western Conference standings, they currently hold the eighth and final playoff spot.

None of which would have been possible without the play of presumptive Rookie of the Year Ja Morant. In addition to their new star, coach Taylor Jenkins has relied on plenty of youth this season, getting productive play from the likes of Jaren Jackson Jr., Brandon Clarke, Dillon Brooks, and De'Anthony Melton.

If you are looking for fresh faces playing at breakneck speed, choose Memphis.

New Orleans Pelicans: Zion, Zion, Zion!

The other Rookie of the Year contender is Zion Williamson, who if not for a lack of games played (19) would no doubt be leading the way.

Williamson has a combination of talent, physical power, and athletic explosion that the league has not seen since a young LeBron James, and while the comparison may seem great, his numbers from this season are simply spectacular and on par with any other rookie in the modern game.

Despite playing only 29.7 minutes per game, Williamson is scoring 23.6 points on 59 percent shooting from the field. At 20, he's already a force for which NBA defences don't seem to have many answers.

Portland Trail Blazers: Dame Time

This season, the Blazers have failed to live up to their own expectations after reaching the Conference Finals in 2019 and as it stands, they're currently 3.5 games outside the playoff picture. However, the return of injured big men Jusuf Nurkic and Zach Collins seems to have revitalized their chances, but it will ultimately come down to the play of Damian Lillard.

Lillard is a proven clutch performer in the playoffs and this season has turned in some of the best performances of his career, averaging 40.3 points and 9.2 assists in 12 games between January and February of this year.

Let's not forget what he did to the Thunder in last season's playoffs.

On top of that, could we Carmelo Anthony back in the playoffs to bring his NBA comeback full circle?

Brooklyn Nets: Crawford is back!

A large number of injuries forced the Nets to seek last-minute signings before entering the Orlando bubble, adding Michael Beasley and Donta Hall, but the signing that has everyone excited is that of the 40-year-old walking bucket in Jamal Crawford.

Crawford's last outing in the NBA came with the Phoenix Suns in 2019, scoring 27 points and 51 points in his final two games, but no teams bet on him in 2019-20 as he remained unsigned all season. Now that JC is back, we'll see if he can replicate those offensive explosions on a team desperate for scoring in Orlando.

Orlando Magic: Fultz's redemption

After being selected with the No.1 overall pick in the 2017 draft, It has been a tough road for Markelle Fultz. From his injury struggles to his broken - and seemingly repaired - shooting mechanics, he gets now gets his time to shine on the biggest stage.

Fultz, who was traded to the Magic at the 2019 trade deadline, is now in his third professional season and seems to have found the stability he needed in Florida as he's established himself as a major contributor for the Magic.

While it will take much more for him to match the expectations of a No.1 pick, Fultz has an opportunity to change the narrative on his young career with a strong showing in the playoffs.

San Antonio Spurs: Pop's streak

Whether you are fan of records and streaks, or just have a special fondness for coach Gregg Popovich, the choice to support the Spurs in their return to action is completely justified. Going back to 1997, San Antonio ahs qualified for the playoffs each season over the past 22 years.

This year, the challenge for the Spurs to get back will be even tougher, given they'll be without LaMarcus Aldridge, but history has taught us never to underestimate a team led by Pop.

Sacramento Kings: An under-the-radar surprise

Outside of teams like the Wizards or Suns that seem to have few real playoff chances, Sacramento is probably the team that is receiving the least attention, despite being in a three-way tie with the Pelicans and Blazers in the race to catch the Grizzlies for the eighth seed.

On top of that, the Kings won 13 of the last 20 games before the season suspension while playing their best basketball of the season.

Are you looking for a surprise, with a real chance of sneaking in? The Kings aren't a bad choice.

Washington Wizards: Scouting mode

Injuries to the Wizards will make a group of young players that includes Rui Hachimura, Thomas Bryant and Troy Brown become the main offensive options for coach Scott Brooks, in a role they have yet to play in their careers to date.

MORE: It's Rui Hachimura's time

Which one will stand out above the rest? Will we see the birth of a future star?

Phoenix Suns: Green light for Booker

Make no mistake, the chances for the Suns making the playoffs are slim, but if you're in the market for some big scoring nights, look no further than Devin Booker.

Booker has the highest scoring game among active players after scoring 70 points against the Boston Celtics in 2017. The Suns have nothing to lose in Orlando and Booker will have free reign to let it fly.

If Phoenix does make it, count on Booker's bucket-getting ability as being the reason why.

The views here do not represent those of the NBA or its clubs.

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