Top-10 NBA Players Who Could Make the Greatest Impact in the Bubble
In a little over a month, the NBA is set to restart its 2019-20 season.
Rolling with a 22-team format, the league has been taking every precaution necessary to keep players and coaches safe with the hope of completing its season and crown a new champion by October. In a situation that has been the furthest from orthodox, the NBA hopes to bring back a somewhat sense of normal but returning to play.
Despite rising COVID-19 cases all throughout Florida, the NBA still plans to complete its season in Orlando at the Disney World resort complex. A central site will virtually eliminate the aspect of home court advantage, meaning teams, and especially players will need to absolutely rise to the occasion.
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What we decided to do here was to highlight the top-10 names that have the potential to leave the greatest impact in the bubble and influence how this irregular campaign will conclude.
So let’s begin!
10. Jimmy Butler, Miami Heat
Despite looking like winners at the NBA’s trade deadline – which feels like it was years ago at this point – the Miami Heat have been largely inconsistent leading up to the hiatus.
Nevertheless, the Heat have a very balanced mix of veteran presence and youth, while being led by Jimmy Butler. A professional scorer in every sense of the word, Butler’s tenacity on both ends of the floor and ability to score on just about anybody will be instrumental if the Heat hope to make some noise in the postseason.
9. Damien Lillard, Portland Trailblazers
There is no single player in this format who can absolutely explode offensively like Damian Lillard.
With the Portland Trailblazers sitting on the outside looking in, the Blazers will count on Lillard to put together heroic performance after heroic performance to not only bring Portland back into the playoff picture but to shock some of the better teams in the entire league. Lillard is one of the only players in the NBA who can averaged 50 points for a week, in any week, and if he catches fire, the Blazers will be a scary out.
8. Jayson Tatum, Boston Celtics
Jayson Tatum was on an absolutely tear after Kemba Walker went down with an injury.
The Boston Celtics will be counting on Tatum to bring that version of himself into the bubble with them, especially with Walker back in the fold. The Celtics rank in the league’s top-five in both offense and defense, but come playoff time, they will need Tatum to elevate his game to new heights if the Celtics hope to stand a chance against some of the elite teams in the league.
To put things into context, Tatum averaged 30.7 points and 7.9 rebounds per game in the month of February. If the Celtics can receive some sort of semblance of February Tatum, they will be a scary team this Summer.
7. Kristaps Porzingis, Dallas Mavericks
Right before the start of the NBA’s hiatus, Kristaps Porzingis looked to be reclaiming his previous All-Star form.
Now, almost two years after tearing his ACL, Porzingis has the potential to become one of the best secondary stars in the entire NBA alongside Luka Doncic. The Dallas Mavericks still may be a year or two away from their true potential, but this bubble format will be a necessary test for the franchise’s two young stars. If Porzingis can continue elevating his play, the Mavs can even provide a couple of upsets in the playoffs.
6. Joel Embiid, Philadelphia 76ers
It is no secret that Joel Embiid can be an absolute force on both ends of the floor.
So to put this in simplest terms, the Philadelphia 76ers ask for nothing more than for Embiid to remain healthy throughout this stretch of games. At his best, Embiid is an unstoppable offensive force with the ability to play Defensive Player of the Year calibre defense.
But as always been the case with the former lottery pick out of Kansas, his health will be paramount.
5. Nikola Jokic, Denver Nuggets
Quite possibly the best big man in the league, Nikola Jokic will be entrusted to lead the young Denver Nuggets into an unorthodox setting come the end of July.
Despite all of the factors that may impact a young team, Jokic can erase all doubt with elevated level of play. His ability to impact the game on both ends of the floor is unlike anything most players in league history could do. Although he is not as explosive as Embiid, he has the IQ and the playmaking ability to not only score from anywhere on the court, but to create easy opportunities for his opponents.
If Jamal Murray can act as a solid sidekick, the Nuggets could be one of the bubble’s dark-horse contenders.
4. Kyle Lowry, Toronto Raptors
The Toronto Raptors have refused to fade away.
After losing one of the league’s greatest players, the defending NBA champions haven’t skipped a beat. With career seasons from the likes of Fred VanVleet, Serge Ibaka, and Pascal Siakam along with steady leadership from head coach Nick Nurse, the Raptors continued to battle and remain un-phased by their doubters. A big reason for their consistent composure has been the leadership and play of All-Star Kyle Lowry who continues to be one of the more under-appreciated players in the league.
Look no further than his performance in Game 6 of the NBA Finals, Lowry is still very much the heart and soul of this organization and the Raptors will rely heavily on their point guard throughout their repeat efforts.
3. Kawhi Leonard, Los Angeles Clippers
Did you see what Kawhi Leonard was able to do during his postseason run last season?
How’s that for impactful?
With three months of rest, a healthy Kawhi Leonard will be leading the deepest team in the entire NBA alongside co-superstar Paul George. His 2019 playoff run drew comparisons to the likes of the great Michael Jordan, meaning if Leonard can remain healthy and re-capture his Finals MVP form, the Clippers may be a couple of months away from the franchise’s first ever NBA championship.
2. LeBron James, Los Angeles Lakers
In his 17th NBA season, LeBron James’ reign of dominance sees no end in sight.
After an underwhelming first season with the Los Angeles Lakers, which included an encounter with a nagging groin injury, James has been nothing short of amazing, leading the Lakers to the top of the Western Conference ladder. Quite possibly the greatest player of all time, having James in the Lakers corner will always give them a chance to beat any team that comes in their way.
Along with the Clippers, the Lakers will most definitely be one of the top-two championship favourites coming out of the West.
1. Giannis Antetokounmpo, Milwaukee Bucks
The Milwaukee Bucks are a juggernaut on both ends of the court.
They are long, athletic, explosive, and shut down their opponents in the paint, but it is reigning MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo who will ultimately be the difference maker. Surely, the most dominant player in the league on both ends of the floor, The Greek Freak seems poised to capture his second straight MVP trophy while also appearing to be a lock for the league’s Defensive Player of the Year award.
His sheer dominance on both ends of the court has spurred the Bucks to the best record in the league, rightfully leaving him as the most impactful player set to enter the bubble.
- Honorary Mentions: Russell Westbrook (HOU), James Harden (HOU), Anthony Davis (LAL)