The NBA bubble in Orlando was incredible. There were so many incredible storylines, games and playoff series. Devin Booker and the Phoenix Suns’ unbeaten bubble run, Damian Lillard lighting it up to lead the Portland Trail Blazers to the playoffs, the Denver Nuggets fighting back from 3-1 down twice and, of course, the Miami Heat’s phenomenal playoff fight.
But it wasn’t perfect. Only 22 teams went to Florida. Some players opted not to travel to Orlando and join their teams. There were missing parts that really would’ve made the bubble spectacular.
A healthy Warriors
Statistically, three-point shooting was ridiculously accurate in the bubble. The circumstances of playing in empty arenas without rows upon rows of seating for fans behind the baskets reduced the issue of depth-perception for players shooting outside. Particularly at the start of the bubble play, teams were lights out from three. So imagine a fully fit and healthy Golden State Warriors side dropping bombs in the bubble.
Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson would’ve run riot. Crazy shooting highlights might have been a nightly guarantee with Steve Kerr’s group on the courts. Even Andrew Wiggins, who is renowned for terrible shot selection, might have looked like a good outside-shooter.
The Warriors weren’t going to be a playoff team at the end of the season, so they could’ve just had fun. Sometimes the most exciting basketball you see is when teams just have fun. Think back to the Los Angeles Clippers before Chris Paul: every game was a show, even though the team sucked. We could’ve had the same, but with crazy triples rather than throwdowns.
Blake Griffin and Derrick Rose
The Detroit Pistons were awful this year. They went 20-46 before the season was halted. Similarly to the Golden State Warriors, we missed an opportunity for Derrick Rose and Blake Griffin to just have fun.
Rose has improved over the last couple of years. This past season was probably his best since his pre-injury campaigns. His handle, speed and agility are still there when he’s feeling it, and his jumpshot has got better. Seeing Rose tear up defences with some razmataz before finishing at the rim or lobbing to the high-flying Griffin would’ve been great fun to watch.
Griffin would also have been a sight to see. Would he break out some of those immense slams we used to see in his first few seasons? Would he shoot 60 percent from three with that jumper he’s spent the last five years working on? I think people forget he’s one of the best ball-handling bigs in the league too. Imagine him crossing up Rudy Gobert before the playoffs with a quick cross or a between the legs thingy-majig.
Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant
Editor-in-Chief Matthew Wellington wrote an article towards the start of the bubble about why it was missing KD (go read it – it’s good). The Brooklyn Nets squad that travelled to the bubble was a rag-tag bunch, especially after Kyrie Irving opted to sit out in protest of police brutality. Irving and Kevin Durant could’ve potentially made an interesting storyline for the bubble.
Imagine, in a hypothetical world, Durant had returned and was immediately at full-strength. The Nets, including Irving, could’ve caused a bit of a stir. Maybe, just maybe, if this had happened, they would’ve beaten the Trail Blazers in that crucial game and the Suns incredible 8-0 bubble run would’ve resulted in the playoffs. How crazy would that have been?
I’ve said a few times about the increased three-point effectiveness in the bubble. So imagine the league’s best shooting center lighting it up in Orlando.
Karl-Anthony Towns shot 7.9 threes a game. SEVEN-POINT-NINE. That’s good enough for 15th in the NBA. It’s more than the likes of CJ McCollum, Bojan and Bogdan Bogdanovic, and Jayson Tatum. He also shot 41.2 percent from behind the arc (19th in the NBA), better than Tatum again, Damian Lillard and Milwaukee Bucks sharpshooter Khris Middleton.
Don’t forget his inside scoring ability either. Towns would quite possibly have been a surprise candidate for bubble MVP, particularly now that he finally has a playmaker on the roster in D’Angelo Russell.
Towns and the rest of the Minnesota Timberwolves could’ve been another “show-time” bubble team, just like the Warriors. We really missed out.