And The NBA Bubble Awards Go To...
Source: Kevin C. Cox/Associated Press
This week the NBA will reveal their awards for the 2019/20 season, however, a last chance push for teams and players alike was created with the NBA bubble tournament. We saw a ton of unexpected and mesmerizing performances these last few weeks, so with that I decided to create my own awards based solely on the bubble. So here we go, my NBA bubble awards.
Team of the Bubble
Needless to say the Suns are the team of the NBA bubble. Despite going 8-0 they didn't make the playoffs, but nonetheless going undefeated sure put people on notice. Devin Booker looked like a man possessed, averaging over 30 points a game in the bubble continuing his stellar all-star season. Let us not forget 7 of the 8 games were against teams who are playing in the season's playoffs, so the Suns can walk away with their held high.
The future looks bright for Phoenix despite the continuation of their playoff drought, and with Booker, Ayton, Bridges and many more young studs on the roster next year could be that drought is snapped. Great turnout for the Suns even if it wasn't the result the Suns hoped for.
Most Valuable Player
Lilliard, like Booker, took his game to another notch, however Dame single-handedly willed the Blazers into a playoff spot so he gets the nod over the young 2 guard. Lilliard did everything he could to bring the Blazers to a play-in matchup against the Grizzlies, the last three games alone he averaged 51 points, astonishing. Despite a few setbacks Lilliard looked like superman in the bubble, and in a must win game against the Nets he had a wonderful performance scoring 12 points in the 4th, including hitting a three from the half court logo. Nobody has averaged more points in the bubble than Lilliard.
It should also be noted that Lilliard is just one of six players to score 60 points multiple times, the others include; Wilt Chamberlain, Kobe Bryant, Michael Jordan, Elgin Baylor, and James Harden, pretty nice company to keep. If there's anybody that should get this prestigious award it's Damien Lilliard. The clock has struck Dame Time.
Most Improved Player
During the course of the regular season TJ Warren had averaged 19 points per game, pretty good, however in the bubble he looked like a different guy! The first three games in the bubble Warren averaged close to 40 points a game and shot an unbelievable 65 percent. You can argue Warren at one point looked like the MVP of the bubble before Dame swooped in.
Just a week ago he led the league in scoring, averaging 35 points. In 4 of his 6 bubble games he'd scored at least 30 or more points, and the Pacers leaned on that production heavily as they went perfect when he did so. Warren looked like a menace in the bubble life and his performances have turned into wins for his team.
Rookie of the Bubble
While there is no doubt that Ja Morant and Zion Williamson will be battling it out for the standard ROTY, the bubble ROTY goes to neither. Instead, the Nuggets’ Michael Porter Jr will get the award. Before the stoppage he averaged well below 10 points per game, the former 1st round pick didn't look like he meshed with the rest of the Nuggets squad (on the court), however, that changed thanks to the bubble.
Porter has been flourishing in the bubble. Porter Jr had a stretch of 4 starts games with 20 or more points scored, including back to back 30 point performances. Even more astonishing, MPJ had double double's in the bubble, but during the regular season (48 games) he had just 6. No rookie has averaged more points or rebounds in the bubble and even though Porter Jr didn't have a good debut outside the bubble, has a chance to help Denver go on a lengthy playoff run.
Sixth Man of the Bubble
Despite the fact that Rudy Gay isn’t quite the guy he used to be, Gay has made the most out of the minutes he’s been handed. The 33-year old has been decent with the three ball and shooting in general and had a few 20 point games in the bubble along with two games where he collected 3 steals. The bubble has done wonders for many, and Rudy Gay is no exception.
Most Disappointing Team
With one of the youngest rosters in the league, and led by Zion, the Pelicans were quickly pegged as a darkhorse to make the playoffs. However, instead we got a conservative New Orleans team that kept their franchise player on a minutes restriction. It’s understandable I suppose, you don't want to jeopardize the future, but it would have been nice to see them go all out to fight for a spot with no handcuffs.
Overall, New Orleans went 2-6. 4 of those 6 losses were by double digits, and former number 2 pick Lonzo Ball forgot how to shoot. Only once did Ball score in double digits, and in a six game stretch, he mustered a mere 34 points. Their play cost Alvin Gentry his job so it goes without saying even the organization realizes how disappointing their bubble performance was.
Coach of the Bubble
This was a pretty easy choice with all things considered, and just like his squad won “Team of the Bubble” award, Monty Williams wins Coach of the Bubble. The Suns looked dead in the water coming into the bubble, but they went undefeated, heck they even improved their record by 15 wins this season.
Monty Williams has gotten the young players to listen and believe in his system. The speech after the Suns found out they were eliminated from the playoffs was both uplifting and emotional. No question Williams has the respect of his players, and has brought back some of the lost dignity the Suns have been searching for.