Sixers Rival Report: 2 Eastern Conference Bubble Teams Take Hits

Justin Grasso

On Thursday, the Sixers will board a one-way flight to Orlando, Florida, in order to partake in the restart of the 2019-2020 NBA season. While the 76ers have already punched their ticket to the 2020 NBA Playoffs, they still have weeks of practices, scrimmages, and even eight regular-season games to compete in first.

Beginning on August 1st, the sixth-seeded Sixers will have the opportunity to improve their ranking in the Eastern Conference Playoff bracket. And a few teams below them will compete for the seventh and eighth seeds. Of those teams are the Orlando Magic, Brooklyn Nets, and the Washington Wizards.

One of those aforementioned organizations will head home early, depending on what happens during the final eight games of the season. Two of which, might've already had no choice but to wave the white flag as injury and illness have affected their rosters in the worst ways possible.

Tough Break for Brooklyn

Last season, the Brooklyn Nets surprised the Eastern Conference with how well they did during the regular season. After getting into the playoffs with the sixth seed, Brooklyn became Philly's first-round opponent. As we know, the Sixers dropped the first game before eventually knocking the Nets out with four-straight victories.

After last season's playoff run, the Nets revamped their rosters with notable star power through free agency. Unfortunately for them, their master plan won't truly come to life until next season. Injuries have destroyed Brooklyn during the 2019-2020 NBA season. And unlike the Sixers, the Nets aren't going to benefit from a COVID-related break.

Kevin Durant will continue rehabbing his torn Achilles, while Kyrie Irving will do the same with his shoulder. Nets' big man Wilson Chandler has also decided not to travel to Orlando this summer. As if that wasn't enough, DeAndre Jordan will hang back home as well after testing positive for COVID-19. And now, two other notable Nets, Spencer Dinwiddie and Taurean Prince will avoid the bubble after receiving positive COVID tests too -- leaving Brooklyn without much to work with moving forward.

Wizards Left Without a Star

Currently, the Washington Wizards are the lone team in the Eastern Conference that isn't a playoff position but also hasn't been eliminated yet either. While the Wizards have a chance to clinch a spot, their chances continue to decrease as players drop out.

For a while now, the NBA knew John Wall didn't have any intention of trying to rush back to play in the NBA's modified format this season. And just last week, Wizards' rising star, Davis Bertans, decided to shy away from the risk of returning as well as he looks forward to his impending free agency this offseason.

Without those two, the Wizards would have to lean heavily on Bradley Beal. Unfortunately, Beal isn't able to take on that task. As he's dealing with a shoulder injury, the Wizards' star will also miss the flight to Orlando, giving the Sixers a much better chance of winning their third game of the final eight matchups this season.

Justin Grasso covers the Philadelphia 76ers for Sports Illustrated. You can follow him on Twitter: @JGasso_ 

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