OTG's NBA All-Bubble First and Second Teams
The eight game stretches for all teams have completed as well as the play-in game that saw the Portland TrailBlazers send the Memphis Grizzlies home and finalize who is in the playoffs.
Monty Williams was rightfully named Coach of the Seeding Games after leading the Phoenix Suns to an 8-0 record, shocking the league and bringing respect back to the franchise. The future is very bright for the youngest team in the NBA.
The All-Bubble First and Second Teams were announced as well. This will not include any of those players (OK, two exceptions) but rather I will take a look at some guys that surprised or impressed in Orlando.
Let’s dive in! Cannonball!
G – Caris LeVert (Brooklyn Nets) Season Stats: 42.5% FG – 18.7 points, 4.4 assists, 4.2 rebounds and 1.2 steals Bubble Stats: 48% FG - 25 points, 6.7 assists, 4.8 rebounds and 1.5 steals Last 3 Games: 28.7 points, 9.7 assists, 5.7 rebounds and 2 steals With multiple players out, the Nets needed someone to step up and LeVert did just that. He showed that he can help lead the team when the likes of Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving are out which will be key in this year’s playoffs. Look at those numbers he posted in his last three games and the fact that the ball was in his hands down the line against the Blazers (sadly, he missed). The man might not get his credit but he’s special, and only 25.
G – Derrick White (San Antonio Spurs) Season Stats: 36.6% 3P, 1.2 threes – 11.3 points, 3.5 assists and 3.3 rebounds Bubble Stats: 39.3% 3P, 3.1 threes - 18.9 points, 5 assists and 4.3 rebounds
LaMarcus Aldridge was out for the run the Spurs had in an attempt at the playoffs but they were still in it almost to the end. Why? (Besides having a Hall of Fame coach, obviously) Well, several players outperformed expectations but White had himself a really good time knocking on stardom’s door. He’s only 26 and with possibly more opportunities next year, the future is very bright for him.
F – Darius Bazley (Oklahoma City Thunder) Season Stats:34.8% 3P, 0.8 threes – 5.6 points, 4 rebounds and 0.7 blocks Bubble Stats: 46.3% 3P, 2.4 3Ps - 13 points, 6.3 rebounds and 0.8 blocks Last 4 Games: 56% 3P, 3.5 3Ps - 18.8 points, 8.5 rebounds and 0.8 blocks
When you look at the standout rookies for the regular season prior to the seeding games, let’s be honest in saying that no one expected Bazley to spring up from far down on the list to being a legit noise maker. However, he was very solid for the Thunder and might be a bit of an X-Factor in their playoff run. Those numbers are impressive and he’s just getting started.
F – Michael Porter Jr. (Denver Nuggets) Season Stats: 50.9% FG, 1.1 threes – 9.3 points, 4.7 rebounds, 0.5 steals and 0.5 blocks Bubble Stats: 55.1% FG, 2.7 threes - 22 points, 8.6 rebounds, 1 steal and 0.9 blocks
“Michael Porter was not selected to play in the Rising Stars game this year. Are you kidding me?” Those words were spoken by Head Coach Michael Malone before walking away. His play has been good news for the Nuggets and a bit of a mic drop for his coach while bad news for Paul Millsap, who is regressing as he ages and MPJ is taking his spot.
C – Jusuf Nurkic (Portland TrailBlazers) Season/Bubble Stats: 50.4% FG - 18.1 points, 11.4 rebounds, 4.2 assists and 2 blocks
About a year ago, Nurkic suffered a gruesome and serious injury that has kept him out until the start of this bubble. Seeing how he’s stepped right back in and put up numbers like this is simply inspiring. RIP to his grandma and good luck to any big facing him. He’s not playing around.
G – Cam Payne (Phoenix Suns) Career Stats: 34.4% 3P, 0.9 threes – 6.2 points, 2.5 assists, 1.9 rebounds and 0.7 steals Bubble Stats: 51.7% 3P, 1.9 3Ps - 10.9 points, 3.9 rebounds, 3 assists and 1 steal
Cam made the second team here but he’s at the top out of all players signed for additional help by teams preparing for Orlando. He made a campaign (see what I did there?) to save his career as it just wasn’t working for him prior to this. However, I think it’s clear he has a spot now as a defensive disruptor and three-point shooter that helps come off the bench and keep his team in the game.
G – Gary Trent Jr (Portland TrailBlazers) Season Stats: 41.8% 3P, 1.8 threes – 8.9 points Bubble Stats: 50% 3P, 3.9 threes - 15.9 points
Dame needed help to make it into the playoffs and he got it in several forms including the sharp shooting and offensive punch that Trent Jr. provided. He brought out the flamethrower from deep and also took very good care of the ball (three turnovers in 308 minutes).
F – Kyle Kuzma (Los Angeles Lakers) Season Stats: 31.6% 3P, 1.4 threes – 12.8 points Bubble Stats: 44.4% 3P, 2.3 threes - 15.4 points
There were a lot of jokes about Kuzma before the team’s trip to the seeding games. Now, he’s set himself up to be a vital part of the team’s success. Look at the differences in not just his three-point percentages and makes but also how much smarter he is being with his shot selection.
F – Dario Saric (Phoenix Suns) Season Stats: 47.6% FG, 35.7% 3P – 10.7 points and 6.2 rebounds Bubble Stats: 57.4% FG, 52.4% 3P - 14.8 points and 7.8 rebounds
During the season, Saric had good games here and there but he was mostly underwhelming and not at all what the Suns were expecting to get when they traded for him. However, he came to play in the amazing run Phoenix had. Monty brought him off the bench to start rookie Cam Johnson and it worked out great for both. “Super Dario” was very efficient off the bench and his versatility and playmaking (2.7 assists in last 3 games) were able to be unleashed.
C – Jarrett Allen (Brooklyn Nets) Season Stats: 64.9% FG – 11.1 points, 9.6 rebounds, 1.6 assist and 1.3 blocks Bubble Stats: 67.3% FG - 15.7 points, 11 rebounds, 4.1 assists and 1.2 blocks
Jarrett had to split the center minutes during the season with DeAndre Jordan with the excuse that he didn’t fare well against bigs with legit size. He was limited. In Orlando, he’s been unlocked and is playing at an incredible level. I was a fan of his in college and this is what I imagined. The Nets are missing several players but with the likes of Allen, LeVert and Joe Harris, they still have a chance in the playoffs.