The NBA season restart brought up new incidence data in the surface around the 22 teams, which participated in the Orlando “bubble”.
The Phoenix Suns going 8-0, the “red-hot” Trail Blazers and the fight for a place in the postseason, as tonight will start the play-in series for the Western Conference’s 8th seed.
Several players have amped up the game during the season restart helping their teams show improvement from the pre-hiatus “self”.
Ricky Rubio has turned some heads during the Phoenix Suns unbeaten run in the NBA season restart. The point guard virtuoso from Spain had his moments offering reliable play-making to the Suns. His game against the 76ers was a great example of that, as he finished with 16 points, 10 assists and 5 rebounds giving Devin Booker’s the chance to focus solely on scoring the ball.
The duo of Booker and Rubio has 10.9% TO% in the last 7 games in a 103.1 possession per game averaging 20.4 AST%. The Suns are moving the ball with urgency and make it count in the scoreboard with Rubio helping Phoenix present more “fluent” offense in Orlando.
The Phoenix Suns are scoring 114.6 points per 100 possession, when the Spanish national is on the floor, while his team conceded 109.3 points per 100 possessions in the defensive end. The Phoenix Suns were the story of the “bubble” finishing the season with an impressive unbeatable 8-0 and Rubio had a huge part in this winning run.
Fred VanVleet showed his perennial star potential last season making one of the best shooting runs in the last two rounds of the postseason. The Toronto Raptors won the championship in the Finals against the Golden State Warriors with Van Fleet being an important part of their success.
The undrafted guard came into the “bubble” strong, helping his team finish the season with the second-best record in the NBA. In his third season, VanVleet had a career-best 36 points in Orlando vs the Miami Heat, while he ended the rest of the contests with double-digit point totals. VanVleet is averaging career-highs in almost every category this season producing 17.6 points, 6.6 assists, 3.8 rebounds and 1.9 steals in 35.7 minutes per game.
In the six games he played in Walt Disney World, the Raptors guard is shooting 44% from the field, 41.7% from the three-point arc and 87.5% from the free-throw line. Furthermore, he continues to score for his team with almost 18 points per contest in the “bubble”. In the Raptors 5 wins with VanFleet in the starting role, Toronto is having +8.7 per 100 possessions, the times Wichita State alumni was in the floor.
The Brooklyn Nets arrived in Orlando without 6 important players, including Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving and Spencer Dinwiddie. As a result, Jacque Vaughn was going to rely on Caris LeVert to carry the scoring load.
And that’s exactly what he did. LeVert had the perfect audition for the third star role behind Durant and Irving next season. He averaged 25 points shooting 48% from the field, as he was getting constantly good looks in the paint. Brooklyn went to win 4 of the 6 games the Michigan product has played in Orlando so far. Furthermore, the Nets were scoring 117.6 points per 100 possessions, when LeVert was on the floor.
The guard/forward’s best appearance was against the red-hot Damian Lilliard finishing the contest with 37 points along with 9 assists and 6 rebounds. He also had 34 points vs the Wizards, with 7 rebounds and 3 assists. The Nets’ star has shown the ability to get in his spots and attempt high-percentage shots inside the paint. With that being said, his play in Orlando can become an important asset for the Brooklyn Nets future, especially when Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving return to action next season.
Michael Porter Jr.
There was no doubt that Michael Porter Jr. is a talented forward, who was projected as the top pick in the 2018 NBA Draft, before he suffers a back injury in Michigan. MPJ showed enough during the seeding games in Orlando to get a legit chance to play big minutes in the postseason.
After missing the 2018-19 season due to injuries, Porter Jr. returned on the court for the Denver Nuggets this year, with the hope to prove all the teams that passed him in the 2018 NBA Draft wrong. At first, before the NBA hiatus, head coach Mike Malone was reluctant to keep Porter Jr. in the court for an extended period of time, but in Orlando, the sophomore went in on all-out attack mode. He played in 7-out-of-8 seeding games, getting +24 minutes in every one of those contests.
He even set a new career-high scoring 37 points in the Denver Nuggets OT win over the Oklahoma City Thunder. The sophomore went to finish four consecutive games with four consecutive double-doubles having +24 points and +11 rebounds in those contests. He ended up averaging 22 points, 8.6 rebounds and 1.6 assists shooting an impressive 55% from the field, 42.2% from the three-point arc and 93.1% from the free-throw line.
Gary Trent Jr.
The Portland Trail Blazers entered the play-in tournament with their offensive prowess being the main weapon to reach the postseason. Portland scored 122.5 points per 100 possessions in the 8 seeding games.
Damian Lillard was a man on a mission during those games, but he received enough help from his teammates to bring Portland one game away from the postseason. Gary Trent Jr. has upped his game in Orlando averaging 16.9 points per contest shooting 51.6% from the field and 50% from the three-point line. On top of that, he showed the potential to become a two-way option for the Blazers in the future. The Blazers, who were the worst defense in the “bubble”, are conceding 115.3 points per 100 possessions, when Trent Jr. is on the floor.
On the other side, they are becoming even more effective in offense having the second best offensive rating during those 8 games, when Gary Trent Jr. is taking the floor. Portland went in to win 6-out-of-their 8 seeding games in Orlando with Trent Jr. being an important part of their “bubble” success. The second-year player seems to be the type of wing Damian Lillard needs in Portland to shine.