NBA’s top bubble players

Who is at the top of the NBA Bubble?

From what we’ve been told, life in the bubble is quite a bit different than NBA players are used to.  A few of the factors that may have an effect on a given player’s game include lack of distractions, no crowd noise, ability to rest, no travel, and constant warm weather. This NBA Bubble sounds quite like the vacation right?

With the above said, is there a difference in top players in the NBA Bubble?

The idea struck me that with these factors some guys might be better suited to living and playing in the NBA bubble than others.  In fact, some ballplayers might be better playing there than outside of the bubble or anywhere else for that matter.

It seems that further analysis is warranted to see how the league stacks up in this alternate reality that is the bubble.   And with most players having played 5 games so far, it is not that infantasmaly small of a sample size to compare.  So, whose game is most conducive to the bubble? Who is normally a David but turns into a Goliath inside the bubble?  Let’s take a look at the top contenders below to see who is the real bubble boy.  

Too Good to be Considered:

Stars like Nikola Jokić, Damian Lillard, Giannis, and James Harden, have, of course, been playing well in the bubble, but that is to be expected.  Their stellar performance this far is par for the course, not any change that the bubble may have brought out of them. So, they are out. 

Young guns like Luka Dončić and Zion Williamson have seemingly elevated their games in the bubble, but this is also expected.  They have embarked on their upward trajectory, as everyone and their mother thought they would.  These players we already know are too good to be in consideration for true bubble boy champ. 

Devin Booker has had a great run in the bubble so far.  He’s also been putting up 26 points per game and 6 assists per game for the last 2 years and made his first All-Star game this past year.  So, his bubble stretch of 27, 30, 35, 20, and 35 pts respectively is impressive but is not that much of a jump from his pre-bubble performance.  Unfortunately or fortunately (depending on how you look at it) Book is out. 

Contenders for top bubble players:

This leaves two true contenders: Michael Porter Jr. and T.J. Warren.  If you’ve been paying attention to the NBA you probably could have guessed this but let’s break them down.

Michael Porter Jr., is averaging 9.2 pts and 4.7 rebounds in the restart, his first real NBA season. His bubble points totals have been:

11 points (in only 25 mins), 37, 30, 27, 23.  He is also put up double-digit rebounds in all but his first game as well.  Advanced metrics have, of course, are kind to Porter Jr’s in his bubble stretch.

The statistical breakdown

Michael Porter Jr. Advance Metrics (season vs bubble):
OFFRTG of 116.2 (bubble) – 112.8 (season), DEFRTG of 112.1 (bubble) – 111.3 (season), and a NETRTG of 4.2 (bubble) – 1.5 (season)

T.J. Warren’s point totals for the 5 games of the bubble thus far: 53, 34, 32, 16, & 39. (He’s averaging 19.9 ppg for the season and 15.5 for his career).  

T.J. Warren Advanced Metrics (season vs bubble):
OFFRTG of 122.3 (bubble) – 110.0 (season), DEFRTG of 102.8 (bubble) – 111.3 (season) and a NETRTG of 19.5 (bubble) – 3.1 (season).  

The defense hasn’t been great but his offense and thus net more than makeup for it. An overall net increase of +16.4 is absurd.   

So, stats pull in TJ’s favor.  The other thing that pulls in TJ’s favor is expectations.  As with the previously mentioned “too good” players, there was a decent chance that MPJ will to ascend to this point.  Yes, both MPJ and TJ were 14th overall draft picks but MPJ had serious injury concerns and still managed to be picked 14th.  

Let’s not forget that he was the #2 overall recruit in the 2017 recruiting class.  In addition, MPJ is in his first full season of playing NBA basketball. Sky is the limit for him to improve at some point unless the injuries fully derailed him.  

Warren is in his 6th season, averaging a very respectable 19+ points per game. His bubble scoring jumps to 40+ points per game.  Guys don’t typically make unreal jumps like that, let alone in their 6th season. Therefore, TJ absolutely should be take the crown as our bubble boy champion through 5 games and will be tough to unseat. 

Yes, I know that haters will say that TJ’s ascendance is a hot streak or that Domantas Sabonis’ injury allowed greater spacing for TJ.  But they know, in their heart of hearts, that it’s all about the bubble – baby. 

Follow John Glowatz on Twitter @PodNortheast

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