The NBA is back, and the bubble was one of the most innovative things we have ever seen in sports. We saw undefeated teams in the bubble somehow not qualify for the playoffs. We saw the Brooklyn Nets make life hard for everyone in Orlando while fielding a roster of players who will be lucky to make a roster in 2020-21. We saw unheralded players make names for themselves with breakout scoring performances.
Most importantly, we saw zero positive coronavirus tests in the bubble. Well done, NBA.
As the regular season commences, let's crown and scorn our favorite players and moments with some TSFJ Bubble Superlatives as the playoffs kick off this weekend.
This video shows you everything you need to know about the future superstar. All hail Devin Armani Booker and the 8-0 bubble champion Phoenix Suns.
There is a reason why T.J. Warren is known as Tony Buckets. Warren has been a bucket since his AAU days and at NC State. He has not particularly lived up to that billing in the league, but he turned back the clock in with scoring games of 53, 34 and 32 points. It's safe to say a star has been born in Indiana.
Kyle Kuzma never saw a shot that he did not like. After hitting the game-winner against the Denver Nuggets, he noted that he would shoot the ball if Jesus were in front of him. Kuz is uber-confident, which is a gift and a curse for the Lakers.
The defending NBA champions have everything you want in a team. They have great guard play with Kyle Lowry, Fred VanFleet and Norman Powell. They have great size and athleticism with Marc Gasol, Serge Ibaka, OG Anunoby and Pascal Siakam. They also defend at a high level and score in transition at an elite level with 1.16 per transition points per possession, which is third-best in the NBA. Although they do not have Kawhi Leonard anymore, they have the ideal roster to represent the East for the second year in a row in the NBA Finals.
It has been “Dame Time” in the bubble. Lillard and the Trail Blazers are set to face the Memphis Grizzlies in the play-in game now that they secured the No. 8 seed. Lillard has been on another planet to say the least. Over the last three games, he scored over 150 points en route to three key victories. It is safe to say without Lillard’s MVP-like play, Portland would not be in a position to make noise in the postseason.
Prior to the start of the bubble, Lillard drew criticism, but as expected, he backed up his words by playing the best basketball of his decorated career.
James Harden’s greatness is a double-edged sword. He is one of the most talented players to ever play the game, and yet, he continues to get unappreciated. The lazy narrative created by casual basketball fans stating that he is a ball hog who does not play defense (ask Giannis Antetokounmpo about that) is far from true. Although he is no longer the lead guard, he is averaging 8.7 assists per game in the bubble, and he leads the NBA in total steals. When it comes to scoring, he is in conversation with the greats named Michael Jordan, Kevin Durant and Kobe Bryant. Harden’s 35 points per game on 53 percent shooting in the bubble say a lot given that he is double-teamed as soon as he crosses halfcourt. Lillard angrily said that people need to put respect on his name, and the same can also be said for Harden.
Zion Williamson showed up to Orlando late and out of shape. While he had some flashes of dominance, he was not the same player we saw earlier in the season. Again, he was on a minutes restriction, but Williamson looked like he spent most of the quarantined break eating charbroiled oysters from Drago’s in New Orleans, which I’m not mad at, but his inability to be in shape cost his team a playoff bid.
Ja Morant was easily the best rookie pre-bubble, but Michael Porter Jr. holds that crown in the bubble. It has been a long time coming for Porter. He is averaging 23.1 points and 8.7 rebounds as a starter. Porter is a huge X-factor for an already great Denver Nuggets team. It will be interesting to see if he carries this type of play to the postseason.
The Luka hype train can be a bit obnoxious at times, but you cannot deny his greatness. He did not miss a beat as he picked up right where he left off, averaging 35.4 points, 12.2 rebounds and 11.6 dimes. Doncic is far and away one of the top players in the NBA and has the makings of a future MVP. Going into the 2020-2021 Season, Luka will likely be the among the favorites to win the award, especially after taking his game to a new level during the bubble.
This is not a popular choice, but Kyle Lowry made timely defensive stops in critical moments of games. Whether he was taking a charge or playing great individual defense, Lowry was everywhere for the Raptors. Although Marc Gasol has the Defensive Player of the Year hardware, Lowry’s impact plays a huge role in why the Raptors had the best defensive rating in the bubble at 101.8.
Brooklyn’s Caris LeVert edged out fellow Columbus, Ohio, native Gary Trent Jr. for the most improved player in the bubble. Jamal Crawford dubbed him as the best kept secret in the NBA, and he also got a stamp of approval from Damian Lillard. In the absence of Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving, LeVert has solidified himself as a go-to-guy. In six games, he averaged 25 points per game, highlighted by a 37-point outing in the final game of the regular season.
The Los Angeles Lakers played uninspired basketball, but they had the luxury of securing the No.1 seed in the West early on. Although they are integrating new players Dion Waiters and J.R. Smith, it is hard to bet against LeBron James and Anthony Davis. If the Lakers can get quality minutes from their point guards, consistent shooting and consistency from Kuzma, look out.