5 most intriguing NBA players to watch when season resumes

Ja Morant drives against Lonzo Ball
Max Gersh / The Commercial Appeal, Memphis Commercial Appeal via Imagn Content Services, LLC

The NBA season will likely resume at some point in July after a four-month hiatus due to the ongoing worldwide pandemic.

We’ve focused on some of the top stories surrounding the Association during these odd times. It’s going to be interesting to see games played in bubble cities and without fans in attendance.

Though, some of the focus has to be on players returning to the court. Indiana Pacers guard Victor Oladipo will have played a grand total of 13 games in about 17 months when the season resumes. Philadelphia 76ers star Ben Simmons is also returning from injury.

These are among the handful of players we’re most intrigued to watch once the suspended NBA season resumes in less than two months.

Victor Oladipo, guard, Indiana Pacers

It’s clear that this former All-Star was not in playing shape when he returned from a year-plus absence on Jan. 29 after suffering a serious leg injury. Oladipo averaged just 13.8 points on 39% shooting from the field in 13 games. He was a shell of his former self for an otherwise title-contending Pacers squad.

We have absolutely no idea how Oladipo is going to handle four months of inaction. When the season does resume, he will have played a grand total of 13 games in an estimated 17 months. If he’s in shape and ready to go, it could propel Indiana to a deep playoff run. If not, Oladipo’s future as a star in the NBA could be in question. He has a lot riding on the season resuming and performing at a high level.

Luka Doncic, guard, Dallas Mavericks

This international sensation was turning in an MVP-caliber sophomore campaign prior to being slowed down by multiple ankle sprains. We’re talking about a dude who was averaging 28.7 points, 9.3 rebounds and 8.7 assists when the season was suspended. Doncic also has his Mavericks as the sixth seed out west.

Now that he’ll have about a quarter of a calendar year between games, Doncic’s ankle will be fully recovered. We’re more intrigued to see how the logistics work as he returns from overseas and whether the youngster is in shape. It’s certainly a story to follow.

Ben Simmons, forward, Philadelphia 76ers

When the season was suspended back on March 11, there was an open question whether Simmons would return from the back injury that had sidelined him. One of the unintended consequences of the pandemic from a sports perspective is the fact that Simmons will now be ready to go once the season resumes.

That’s no small thing for what was a struggling Sixers squad. Things were seemingly coming unraveled with Simmons’ injury as well as the drama and injury surrounding Joel Embiid. This former No. 1 pick now has a clean slate to help Philadelphia as it attempts to atone for what was seemingly a lost season. That’s certainly going to be something to watch moving forward.

Ja Morant, guard, Memphis Grizzlies

The odds-on favorite to take home Rookie of the Year honors prior to the season being suspended, Morant has his Grizzlies in playoff positioning. The team currently sits as the eighth seed out west with a 32-33 record. It is 3.5 games ahead of the Portland Trail Blazers for that final playoff spot.

Morant, 20, has also put up a tremendous individual performance as a rookie. He’s averaging 17.6 points, 3.5 rebounds and 6.9 assists per game. Teaming up with fellow youngster Jaren Jackson Jr., it will be fun to see how Morant plays with more rest under his belt. Remember, he’s not accustomed to playing such a long season. Fresh legs could do a world of wonders.

Lonzo Ball, guard, New Orleans Pelicans

Just imagine the possibilities. If Ball is able to lead his Pelicans to a playoff spot once the season resumes, there’s a darn good chance that the young guard would be facing off against his former Lakers squad in the first round. Regardless of the potential series being played in a bubble city and without fans in attendance, this would be something else.

After struggling early on his first season with New Orleans, Ball picked it up big time once Zion Williamson returned from injury. The former No. 2 overall pick was averaging 14.1 points, 7.1 rebounds, 7.9 assists and 1.8 steals on 46% shooting from the field in the 16 games prior to the season going on hiatus. He continued to make sweet music with Mr. Williamson. It will be fun to watch these do their thing when the season resumes.