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Basketball is back! After four months of no action, the NBA returned in their isolated bubble within Disney World. The time off basically equated into an off-season and like most off-seasons, players either took advantage of the time by training or they decided to use the time to relax. Whether it’s due to an increased role in the team, the change of venue, or just overall improvement, the restart of the NBA has seen different players breakout into players completely different to what we saw before the bubble.
The sample size is limited to only a week of play, so most teams have only played 4 games. Although there is a small sample size, this could be a sign of greater things to come for some players on this list, but it could also be a fluke for others.
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2019-2020 Stats: 32.9 MPG, 19.6 PPG, 4.2 RPG, 1.5 APG, 1.2 SPG, 39.6% 3PT
Stats in the Bubble: 38.0 MPG, 33.8 PPG, 7.0 RPG, 2.8 APG, 2.0 SPG, 53.6% 3PT
Coming into the bubble TJ Warren had a defined role as a complimentary scorer for the Pacers. For the past couple of years Warren has averaged around 18-19 points per game on efficient percentages, although he was never the main scorer. With Oladipo’s health in question and Sabonis out for the rest of the bubble with a foot injury, Indiana needed someone to step-up on offense.
In comes a scorching hot TJ Warren. With his opening game of the restart, Warren managed to score a whopping 53 points for the Pacers. He then continued to follow up that game with 34 and 33 respectively and eventually cooled down for 16 points during the last of the 4 games. Warren has been taken over 20 shots a game, becoming the much needed focal point of the Pacers offense. I’m doubtful he can keep up these shooting numbers for long, but for now I’m just enjoying the hot streak he’s in.
Michael Porter Jr.
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2019-2020 Stats: 15.2 MPG, 8.9 PPG, 4.6 RPG, 0.8 APG, 0.4 SPG, 0.4 BPG
Stats in the Bubble: 34.3 MPG, 26.3 PPG, 10.0 RPG, 1.5 APG, 0.75 SPG, 1.0 BPG
Out of all the breakout players, I think Porter Jr. has the greatest likelihood to carry his production outside the bubble. Coming out of high school Porter was viewed as a future NBA star, however all the projections came to a halt when he faced spinal and hip injuries in high school and college. However the potential was still there and Porter was drafted to the Denver Nuggets with the 14th pick of the 2018 draft.
Luckily for Porter, he seemed to fall to the perfect situation. The Nuggets were a competitive team with or without Porter, so Porter was able to slowly and patiently work his way back to full health. Throughout the season before the restart, Porter has flashed star potential in limited minutes. At 6’10”, Porter is a fluid athlete with legitimate three point range and blow-by ability. Although it’s early, shades of Durant are seen in Porter’s game as he can easily shoot over smaller guards and beat bigs off the dribble.
Finally in the bubble, Mike Malone decided to unleash Porter with starter minutes and his decision has paid off. As the perfect compliment to Nugget’s star Nikola Jokic, Porter has the luxury to play off-ball allowing for easy spot-ups and backdoor cuts that are opened up by Jokic’s demand of the defense. If Porter stays healthy he is a guaranteed star, and if the Nuggets can get Bol Bol to play consistent minutes they’ll be dangerous in the near future.
Gary Trent Jr.
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2019-2020 Stats: 20.9 MPG, 8.5 PPG, 1.7 RPG, 1.0 APG, 0.8 SPG, 42.4% 3PT
Stats in the Bubble: 32.8 MPG, 20.3 PPG, 1.8 RPG, 1.8 APG, 1.0 SPG, 62.9% 3PT
The Blazers have been a different team in the bubble and a healthy Jusuf Nurkic and Zach Collins get a lot of the credit. However, a player that has stepped it up for the team is the Duke product, Gary Trent Jr. Trent has always been a marksman from deep, however he is catching fire in the bubble and he has also increased the amount of shots he’s taking as well. Understandably, Trent struggled to get consistent minutes as the back-up to Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum. However his sharp shooting has forced Terry Stott’s hand to give him more minutes.
Realistically, shooting 62.9% from three is almost impossible to keep consistent. However his effort on the defensive end combined with a shooting percentage that will probably settle at around 40% still makes him an incredible prospect. Whether his future lies in Portland or not, Trent Jr. has proven he has the skills to warrant a major role for a team. But for now, his current hot streak could be a key piece in a possible Cinderella run for the Trailblazers this year.
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Stats in the Bubble: 20.0 MPG, 11.5 PPG, 3.3 RPG, 2.3 APG, 1.3 SPG
If you thought Cameron Payne was out of the league I don’t blame you. Before the season, Payne’s name was associated with his pregame dance routine handshake with Russell Westbrook. However his stint with Suns has sorta been like the Suns in the Bubble in general. Coming into the bubble I didn’t expect much at all for the Suns. However as I write this article the Suns are the only team to be undefeated in the Bubble (4-0) and Cam Payne has seemed to be the capable back-up point guard that the Suns need.
Throughout the year, Payne has been lighting up the G-League with 23.2 points and 7.3 assists per game. Although the high production, there was still doubt on his abilities translating to the big leagues. However, he has pleasantly surprised fans as a scoring guard for the Suns while shooting over 50% in both field goal percentage and 3-point percentage. It still seems like a long-shot for the Suns to reach the playoffs however they have definitely became one of my favorite teams to root for in the bubble. For Payne, even if there isn’t a playoff run with the Suns, he has at least earned himself a contract for next year.