NBA Awards: Bubble Edition
In early March, the NBA faced a tough decision on if they would be able to continue the season once Rudy Gobert contracted the Covid-19. Eventually, the league was able to secure a spot in Disney, sectioning off major areas and creating a “bubble” for players, coaches, team workers, and more. The league’s bubble has worked so well that not only has nobody contracted the virus, they are considering holding their games in the same place this coming season.
While the NBA has given the players access to plenty of amenities in Disney (fishing, restaurants, and more), the main focus is on continuing the NBA season, which, so far, has been incredibly smooth. While some players have adapted very nicely to the bubble basketball, other players have not.
These are my awards for the NBA’s bubble.
Bubble MVP: Devin Booker
Devin Booker emerged in the bubble as one of the best leaders in the NBA. While for years Booker has put up spectacular stats, the Phoenix Suns have consistently been one of the worst teams in the league. Fans of Booker praise his talent while claiming his teammates have always been subpar (which they have been), and doubters have always wondered how such a talented player cannot even lead his team to a .500 record.
Well, consider those doubters silenced. In eight games in the NBA’s bubble, Booker averaged 30.5 PPG, 4.9 RPG, and 6 APG while shooting 50.3% from the field and 94% from the line. Oh, and Booker’s team went 8-0. In the NBA bubble, the league’s eight worst teams were not invited, so their competition was tougher than normal, making Booker’s performances even more impressive.
Damian Lillard’s insane numbers (37.6 PPG, 9.6 APG) certainly warranted a ton of consideration, as his 61 point, 51 point, two 40-10, and two 30-10 games were off the charts. However, the fact that Lillard’s team lost two games and scored 25 more points total than opponents in the eight games (Booker’s team outscored opponents by 105 over their eight games) played a huge factor for me in choosing the MVP.
Bubble DPOY: Marc Gasol
Marc Gasol has looked incredible for the Raptors on the defensive end as well in the bubble. Gasol's rotations on defense and help on slashers have always helped him stand out, and his versatility on this unique Toronto team is certainly a big reason why they are as good as they are. If Gasol continues to play this way, look for the Raptors to make a real run in the playoffs.
As the frontrunner for this year’s DPoY, Rudy Gobert has also been an absolute machine on defense. Gobert blocked 1.8 shots per game in the bubble and grabbed 11 rebounds a game. While many were wondering how Gobert would play after his alleged rift with star teammate Donavan Mitchell, Gobert played with the same energy he always has on the defensive end, stifling those driving into the lane as only he can.
While Gasol’s numbers have not been as flashy as Gobert’s, the fact that Gasol has played in each of his team’s eight games (with them going 7-1), while Gobert only played in 6 games (with his team going 2-4 in those games) played a large factor in me picking Gasol over Gobert.
Bubble RoY: Michael Porter Jr.
Before entering the bubble, Michael Porter Jr.’s rookie season stats were 7.5 PPG and 4.1 RPG. Porter Jr.’s stats inside the bubble? 22 PPG, 8.6 RPG, 55.1% FG, 42.2% 3PT, 93.1% FT. After being ranked number one coming out of high school, Porter Jr. was injured for the majority of his college and first year in the NBA.
Finally getting acclimated to the NBA, Porter Jr. is flashing the potential we all knew he had: a big man who can play inside, and can shoot, run, and dribble like a guard. With all of the pieces coming together for Porter Jr., the Nuggets are somehow even more dangerous than they were before.
While Ja Morant put up some spectacular numbers for the Memphis Grizzlies (19 PPG, 9.9 APG), his shooting percentages (39.4% FG, 22.5% 3PT) were extremely low, and I could not give him the bubble RoY over Porter Jr. It also didn’t help that Morant’s team went 2-7 when he played, while Porter Jr.’s team went 3-4 when he played.
Most Surprising Bubble Performance: TJ Warren
This was an incredibly easy pick. Some fans could have predicted Porter Jr. getting a bigger role on the team (as multiple players on the Nuggets opted out or are injured), and others could have guessed that Damian Lillard would carry his team to the playoffs. Who would have guessed that TJ Warren would have been one of the best players in the bubble?
In the six games Warren played in the bubble, he averaged 31 PPG, 6.3 RPG, 2 APG, 1.3 SPG, and 1.2 BPG on 57.8% FG, 52.4% 3PT, and 88.9% FT. Warren is in the midst of the best stretch of his career and is playing like one of the best players in the league. It is unbelievably mind-blowing to think that Warren was traded by the Suns just one year ago for cash considerations.
If Warren continues this hot streak in the playoffs, look for the Pacers to make a real splash.
Most Underwhelming Bubble: LeBron James
After more than three months of time away from the NBA, fans everywhere expected a rejuvenated LeBron James to come out firing in the NBA bubble. However, this is the opposite of what has happened. While James has been pretty solid compared to the average NBA player, compared to how he was playing before the season was paused, James has been incredibly underwhelming.
In the seven games James has played in, the Lakers only have gone 3-4 (3-5 overall in the bubble), compared to the 49-14 record the Lakers had before the bubble. James averaged 22 PPG, 7.4 RPG, 6.9 APG, .6 SPG, and .5 BPG on 44.9% FG, 34.1% 3PT, and 65.8% FT. Before the bubble, James was averaging 25.7 PPG, 7.9 RPG, 10.6 APG, 1.2 SPG, and .9 BPG on 49.8% FG, 34.9% 3PT, and 69.7% FT.
If the Lakers want to reach their full potential and compete for an NBA title, LeBron James needs to step up his game.