To round off what has been a stellar few weeks of basketball in the Orlando Bubble, Adam Silver and co. have decided to reward the top-performing players with a Bubble MVP award and an All-Bubble Team.
With that in mind, let’s take a look at those special players vying for Bubble MVP.
5. Luka Doncic
Luka Doncic has taken his play up a notch during the seeding games, making him an outside shot at Bubble MVP. After making the most of the four-month suspension, going home to his native Slovenia, Doncic has come back looking refreshed and ready to cause an upset in the Western Conference playoffs.
In the Bubble, Doncic is averaging almost a triple-double with 29.0 points, 9.5 rebounds and 9.0 assists. Stat sheet aside, Luka’s play on the court has been poetic at times. The ex-Real Madrid star has taken his passing to the next level, dropping dimes left, right and centre while also finding teammates, such as Kristaps Porzingis, to knock down 3s in the corner. Doncic’s vision, composure and confidence on the court has led him to be considered one of, if not the best, playmaker in the NBA.
4. James Harden
A mainstay on many regular-season MVP shortlists, it is of no surprise that Harden would be considered one of my elite of the elite in the Bubble.
The leader of the ‘Pocket Rocket’ revolution, Harden has continued to impress in Orlando, averaging 33.4 points, 8.6 assists and 7.6 rebounds. Highs include 49 points in a comeback overtime victory against the Mavs, 39 points against the Lakers and 32 points against the Kings.
Harden has impressed leading the Rockets when Russell Westbrook is off the floor, demonstrating grit and determination on the defensive side of the ball – something that is key to ensure that the Rockets play hard on defence by following their team captain. Moreover, Harden has shown just how good of a passer he is, rivalling Doncic. Against the Lakers, Harden dropped 12 dimes, hardly any of them ‘cheap’ as well.
3. T.J. Warren
T.J. Warren may have sold his soul to the devil. The Pacer forward has taken the NBA Bubble by storm, scoring 54 points against Philly in game one before going to record back-to-back 30+ point games against the Wizards and the Magic. Sandwiched in between modest scorelines of 16 points and 12 points against the Suns and the Heat, Warren hung 39 points on the Lakers.
Whether or not the Pacers find success in the postseason, Warren has certainly made the Phoenix Suns regret trading him to Indiana for cash considerations.
Watching Damian Lillard strut up the court while your team is up three late in the 4th is enough to strike the fear of God into you.
The Trail Blazers are one of those teams who have undoubtedly benefited due to the stoppage in play. Before the Bubble, Portland was beaten up and meandering to a 30 win season. Led by Lillard, the Blazers are 5-2 in the Bubble, unlucky not to be 6-1 following a tough defeat to the Clippers, and look the most dangerous team to come out of the West. The steady, all-around play of Carmelo Anthony, the sharpshooting of Gary Trent Jr (who leads the NBA in 3 pointers made in the Bubble) and the return of Jusurf Nurkic has altered Portland’s course drastically.
However, it has been Lillard who has been the leader and driving force behind this teams success. Averaging 37.0 points, 9.3 assists with only 3.6 turnovers a game in the Bubble, Lillard’s level of play need not be questioned. Paul George and Patrick Beverly seemingly did not get the memo, taunting Lillard after missing two clutch free-throws at the end of their game with the Clippers.
Lillard in return scored 51 on the 76ers and 61 on the Mavs.
1. Devin Booker
Finally evolving into the cold-blooded killer we all thought he could be, Devin Booker looks nailed on to receive the Bubble MVP Award. In the process of becoming the player of the Bubble, the Pheonix Suns have become the team of the Bubble. As of writing, the Suns are the only undefeated team remaining in Orlando (7-0).
On top of averaging a stellar statline of 31 points on 49% shooting and 6.1 assists, Booker perhaps delivered us the moment of the Bubble with his already iconic game-winner against the Clippers.
Booker’s own play coupled with the upturn in form for the Suns, as well as this iconic moment, have created the perfect storm for D-Book. A storm that surely results in Booker walking, or spinning, away with the Bubble MVP Award.