Bubble Life (#bublyfe) has begun in Orlando, and so have the NBA’s first scrimmages. I have to admit, it’s been weird/slightly depressing watching the videos from scrimmages. The fanless arenas, the bench players, and staff sitting all spaced out and not knowing how much noise to make – it’s weird. But look, we’re living in weird times right now, and if this is how I get the NBA back THIS IS HOW I’LL TAKE IT. Today, I’m sharing with you the top ten players I’m looking forward to watching in the bubble after watching the scrimmages.
I really love watching Shai Gilgeous-Alexander. He’s an incredibly well-rounded player, able to adapt to whatever lineup Coach Donovan chooses. His length helps him defend almost any position, and he has the offensive skill to create his own shots as well as create shots for others. He’s taken a bit of a backseat after Chris Paul joined the team, though the two of them work well together. Watching him go from a rookie on the Clippers to becoming a key player on the current Thunder team has been so fun. He’s one of those quiet players on the court that makes you do a double-take after you see his stats, which is refreshing to see in such a young player.
9. Jaylen Brown
Another youngin’ I’ve enjoyed watching. After Jaylen Brown signed a hefty $115 million contract extension in October, many people were skeptical (myself included). I’d say he’s proving that he’s worth it. He is averaging career-bests in field goal percentage (49%), points per game (20.4), and rebounds (6.4). In the Celtics’ scrimmage against the Thunder, Brown didn’t look rusty at all. I’m excited to see how he plays, considering how well he’s played during the playoffs in his career thus far.
8. Kyle Lowry
Kyle Lowry has had to step it up in Toronto with the absence of Kawhi Leonard, and he’s been doing just that. This season, he’s increased his minutes per game, and has increased his points per game to 19.7. He’s a seasoned veteran with a championship under his belt, and he’ll need to be a strong leader for the team to be successful. Lowry is a great point guard who’s shooting well, and still taking charges like a champ.
7. Ja Morant
Ja Morant is the top pick for Rookie of the Year, and that’s no surprise. He has single-handedly changed the course for the Grizzlies during his first season. He plays with a sense of calm and finesse that you don’t often see in a rookie, able to deliver in the fourth quarter consistently. In his first year, he’s averaging 17.6 points, 49.1% from the field (36.7% from three), and 6.9 assists per game. Not too shabby for a rookie, huh? I’m excited to see what he does in the bubble and where he’s able to take the 8th seed Grizzlies.
6. Ben Simmons
Ben Simmons is going through more changes in Orlando than playing power forward instead of point guard. The world has been wondering when Simmons would make shooting 3’s a part of his game rather than a fluke. The time may have come, my friends. In Philadelphia’s scrimmage against Memphis Simmons took not one, but two shots from deep – and made one of them. More heartening than the fact that he made one of these shots, is the fact that he took the shots without hesitation. Coach Brett Brown stated that Simmons has experienced a paradigm shift that has allowed him to feel more comfortable taking those shots. Whatever it is, I’m looking forward to seeing how it affects Simmons’ contribution to the team.
5. Nikola Jokić
Nikola Jokić‘s bubble reveal has shown that he is now what the kids call a “skinny legend”. He achieved the opposite of what most people have in quarantine and lost about 40 pounds. Jokić is such a unique player and one of my favorites to watch because of his surprising ability to maneuver around the basket with his sturdy frame. He’s also undoubtedly one of the best passers in the game. Though he did turn the ball over 8 times in Denver’s scrimmage against Washington, he still finished with 16 points, 7 rebounds, and 7 assists. His fitness and athleticism have been his most criticized aspect as a player, but let’s see what Skinny Jokić is capable of in the bubble.
4. Luka Dončić
Luka Dončić is an incredible offensive weapon for the Dallas Mavericks. He was last season’s Rookie of the Year and he’s only getting better folks. This season he’s averaging 28.7 points, 9.3 rebounds and 8.7 assists per game. The Mavs’ offense was the best ever, no seriously – ever – before the shutdown. Dončić, Porzingis, Hardaway Jr., and Curry are absolute monsters who, I think, will tear up Orlando. Dončić may be an extremely young superstar, but his professional experience in Spain started when he was just 16. He’s had plenty of experience in high pressure situations. When I was 16, I blasted Dashboard Confessional on my way to zero-hour jazz choir, so we’re pretty similar.
3. Bol Bol
I had to include Bol Bol on this list after what he did, not only in the Nuggets’ first scrimmage but in his first minutes ever in the NBA. The Nuggets have a kind of hilarious (and huge – like, the people are huge) roster at the moment. I’m thankful for this because I now know that Bol Bol is absolutely insane. I mean, watch the video. A block with his 7’8″ wingspan followed by a casual pull-up 3? WHAT?! In the team’s first scrimmage he finished with 16 points, 10 rebounds, and 6 blocks. He was scheduled for a “random” drug test after his performance. Imagine being so good people are like, “He has to be on drugs, right?” It was no fluke. In Denver’s second scrimmage, Bol finished with 15 points, 3 rebounds, 3 assists, 2 blocks, and a steal. He is a rookie and these scrimmages are his first games in the NBA, so it’s a small sample size. But I sure can’t wait to see what happens.
Okay, these last two won’t surprise you. Of course I’m looking forward to watching Giannis Antetokounmpo in the NBA restart. EVERYONE IS! Last year’s (and likely this year’s) MVP, Antetokounmpo continues to make waves in the game. This season he’s averaging 29.6 points on 54.7% shooting, 13.7 rebounds, 5.8 assists, and a block and steal per game. He and Middleton haven’t skipped a beat. In the Bucks’ scrimmage against the Spurs, Giannis finished with 22 points, 4 assists, 3 rebounds, and 3 steals. The Bucks have the best defense, and Giannis is a huge part of that. In my opinion, he should win both MVP and Defensive Player of the Year. Will he and the Bucks be more successful in the playoffs this season?
1. LeBron James
Sorry to be boring here and choose LeBron James, but it’s what I’m doing. With every Laker game I watched this season, I found myself thinking, “Is LeBron really still doing this?” James may be 35, but there’s little about him that shows this – except maybe the grey patches in his beard. His performance before the shutdown was certainly MVP-caliber. He’s as seasoned and experienced as they come, and he’s well-rested. A well-rested LeBron James is a scary LeBron James.
Of course, there are plenty of other Bubble Boys I’m looking forward to watching in the 2019-20 season, take 2. I’m just happy to be here. And by here I mean my living room, in sweatpants, drinking wine, listening to the squeaking of Nikes and sporadic cheers.
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