The NBA’s Orlando experiment has been one hell of a ride so far. Forget everything you knew about the NBA before the season restart; none of it applies to the bubble. The Phoenix Suns are invincible, Michael Porter Jr. looks like the second coming of Kevin Durant, and Carmelo Anthony is having a resurgence of his own.
Another thing exclusive to the bubble is how teams are scoring the basketball. The last time there was a slate of five or more NBA games on the same day, with every team scoring at least 110 points, was more than 32 years ago, according to ESPN. Well, Orlando has seen it happen twice already, and we’re only two weeks into the restart.
Mike D’Antoni explained it by saying: ‘There’s not a lot of distractions. It’s the same court every night. You get your shooting, depth perception, and all that.‘ It’s all contributing to a high quality of offensive play. Thus we’ve seen some incredible individual scoring stretches. Some of them were expected, and some took us by surprise. So let’s check out which five players are having the best scoring campaigns in the bubble.
When I said that some scoring stretches took us by surprise, TJ Warren is the guy I was referring to. With Sabonis out indefinitely and Oladipo still working himself closer to full strength, the 6-8 forward has emerged to help keep Indiana afloat.
Over the seven games played in Orlando, Warren is putting up 31 points and 6.3 rebounds per game. But what’s even more impressive is the way T.J. is shooting the ball. Over the stretch, he’s been shooting .578 from the field, .524 on 7 attempts from behind the line, and .889 from charity-stripe. It’s without the doubt the best run of his career, initiated by his career-high 53 points performance in a win against the 76ers.
4. DEVIN BOOKER
The Phoenix Suns are 7-0 in the bubble. The team no one saw as a legitimate candidate to challenge for the eighth seed, is on the verge of at least securing the spot in the play-in tournament. Hats off to everyone involved with the organization, but the one player that deserves the most amount of credit is without the doubt, Devin Booker.
Book has been on fire ever since Phoenix’s first game against the Wizards. In no game did Booker drop less than 20 points. He’s putting up 31 points on a per-game basis while shooting .497 from the field. Book’s best performance was the game against the Clippers, where Devin dropped 35 points and capped it off with a buzzer-beating fallaway jumper over Paul George for their third win into the restart. He’s kept the same level of play since and is hoping to do the same if the Suns are to make it to the post-season.
3. LUKA DONČIĆ
It’s no surprise Luka Dončić is on this list. The Slovenian wonder basically continued where he left off before the NBA went on a hiatus. Over 6 games played, Luka is averaging 32 points per contest on .474 shooting.
The Mavericks are 3-4 since arriving in Orlando, with Dončić sitting out one of the seven games played. But they did have one of the toughest schedules of all the teams in the bubble. Luka is still playing on an MVP level, as he’s getting ready for his first career playoff performance. Oh, and it finally seems that Kristaps Porzingis is finding his groove with Dallas, as the Latvian big is putting up north of 30 points per game. The Mavs’ fans sure have something to look forward to.
2. JAMES HARDEN
Most people don’t see the Houston Rockets making it past the second round of the Playoffs. A potential matchup with either of LA teams might be too much for Daryl Morey’s analytically driven machine. But the way James Harden is playing, nothing is off the table.
The Beard is once again putting on an offensive clinic, night in and night out. He’s putting up 33.4 PPG, which makes him the second-leading scorer in the bubble. The all-around performance is also there, as there were also few instances of Harden actually putting in the defensive effort. Now, I don’t expect him to lock people down, but just showing the effort has the Rockets’ fans feeling optimistic. Who knows, this may be the year Harden finally gets it done in the post-season. That’s the only thing missing on his NBA resume.
1. DAMIAN LILLARD
When he isn’t engaging in social media feuds with Skip Bayless and Paul George, Damian Lillard is torturing opposing defenses. The Trail Blazers‘ superstar is coming off a 61 points display in a win against Dallas, to lift Portland into the eighth seed in the West.
Over seven games played, Dame is putting up 37 points on .485 shooting from the floor. He’s been incredibly efficient from behind the three-point line, as Lillard is converting .414 of 12.4 3PAs. Lillard is having an incredible scoring stretch, and there are no signs of him slowing down. He’s got his eyes on the prize, and the prize is the last spot for the playoffs. Good luck to anyone who will have to face the guy, because Dame Time has officially begun.