The NBA’s scheduled restart is fast approaching. But as we draw closer and closer to the date, the list of players who will be sitting out is growing by the minute.
We already had a few big-name stars who weren’t going to be playing due to injury in Brooklyn Nets players Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant. Now we can also add the Indiana Pacers’ Victor Oladipo and the Washington Wizards’ Bradley Beal, both of whom are taking the cautious route while nursing injuries.
But when one door closes, another one opens. For a handful of NBA players, the openings brought about by those sitting out can serve as a major opportunity for their own careers.
Here’s a list of five (5) NBA players who will benefit the most from others missing the Orlando bubble.
Alex Caruso – Los Angeles Lakers, G
Lakers rotation piece Avery Bradley missing the NBA’s return isn’t the biggest loss, but it might just be a massive gain for everyone’s favorite GOAT Alex Caruso.
The LA guard ranked 9th in minutes played per game during the regular season, playing in just under 18 minutes per contest. His per game numbers don’t jump out at you, but there are definitely reasons to be optimistic if you’re a Lakers fan wanting to see more of AC.
When the two GOATs sync up, their combined net rating is at +20.8, the only pair to hit above 20 in the whole league. They’re almost two points ahead of the second ranked duo in Giannis Antetokounmpo and Eric Bledsoe who provide a +18.9 net rating together. LBJ and AC topping the list is extra impressive given that the next six lineups are that of Milwaukee Bucks players.
Caruso will definitely get a chance to show out in Orlando for a Lakers side that’s expecting to make a deep run. A few highlight dunks for added measure wouldn’t hurt either.
Aaron Holiday – Indiana Pacers, G
If there’s one player who might have some unexpected blow-up moments during the NBA bubble games, my money’s definitely on Indiana Pacers guard Aaron Holiday.
With the news that Indiana front man Victor Oladipo is sitting out the return, Holiday is primed to take advantage.
The youngest Holiday brother was already providing decent production on the regular for the Pacers this season. He averaged just a shade under 24 minutes a night, putting up 9.4 points and 3.3 assists per contest.
But take away Oladipo’s probable 30 minutes and Jeremy Lamb’s minutes in the high 20s, and Holiday will have all the playing time he can handle on a guard-depleted team.
Rui Hachimura – Washington Wizards, F
Bradley Beal was the latest big name to announce that he was skipping Orlando. Wizards fans will definitely miss watching Big Panda’s ability to get buckets. But they’ll be excited to see what Rui Hachimura can do as the team’s primary scoring option.
Both Beal and forward Davis Bertans, the team’s leading scorers, are going to be absent for Washington. That leaves exactly 34.2 shots and 45.9 points that the team is going to have to fill in for. Rui Hachimura just so happens to be their third leading scorer.
Hachimura is no stranger to being a primary scorer. He’s used to leading the Japanese team as their first option during international competitions already. We’ll see what the Gonzaga product can do as the main weapon in actual NBA games.
Joe Harris – Brooklyn Nets, G
The Brooklyn Nets are going to Orlando absolutely decimated by injuries and sit outs.
They’re already missing Irving and Durant, but now the team is playing without Spencer Dinwiddie, DeAndre Jordan, and Taurean Prince. That’s basically all of their primary weapons aside from Caris LeVert.
Joe Harris has a chance to step in and show that he’s more than just a spot-up shooter. Harris will definitely try too, given that he’s a free agent looking for a big pay day. He’s clearly one of the most lethal threats from deep in the NBA, averaging 41.2% from downtown on 5.9 attempts.
But the man has shown that he can score in more ways than one. Harris has an underrated ability to get into the paint. He’s an expert at utilizing his shooting reputation by attacking hard once defenders closeout.
Harris can showcase all his talents as one of Brooklyn’s primary options by default.
Carmelo Anthony, Portland Trail Blazers, F
Few things would be more exciting to watch in Orlando than Carmelo Anthony returning to superstar form.
It’s probably a long-shot to happen, but it’s not impossible given Melo’s innate talent. He may be 36 years old, but the man has shown he can still score on most anybody in the league at his advanced age.
Anthony put up averages of 15.3 points and 6.3 rebounds in his 50 games played this season. He may be a turnstile on the defensive side of the floor, but he’s clearly far from washed.
The Blazers already had Rodney Hood out with an Achilles injury, and now Trevor Ariza is set to miss the action due to personal reasons.
The NBA will be more than fine seeing Melo go off, for old time’s sake.