The NBA bubble in Orlando is well underway, with lack of any positive tests for weeks from players and personnel involved in the restart operation adding to the success of the bubble. After months, we’ve finally been able to see some NBA action and we’ll know at last who will win the championship, as well as the NBA Finals match-up that we’ve been debating for the entire year.
Last week, we covered the Western Conference teams that traveled to Central Florida to finish the season. This week, we’re taking a look at the Eastern Conference to see which one player has been and will be the true difference maker for their team.
Boston Celtics: Jayson Tatum
It was a tough choice between Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum, but we opted for the latter here.
The Celtics are a legitimate title contender, and Jayson Tatum has not only proven to be the best player from his draft class of 2017, but the guy that his teammates have looked to for huge plays and performances both offensively and defensively. Him and Brown have seen a crazy rise in form this season, and Tatum is widely predicted to win an MVP in the coming years and potentially become the face of the league. However, this is about him in the bubble, and he’s been hot so far in the seeding games. Although they are a strong all-around team, Boston will only go as far as Tatum can help take them.
Brooklyn Nets: Caris LeVert
This guy is genuinely one of the most underrated players in the NBA.
Of all the guys that traveled to Orlando as a member of the Nets organization, LeVert is and has been the best of them. He’s been a solid scorer this year (18.1 points per game) as well as averaging over one steal a game. As the guy who’s in contention for the title of Brooklyn’s “third star” behind Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving, who are not with the team in the bubble, LeVert has helped Brooklyn’s confidence soar which in turn helped the team earn a playoff spot in a 119-106 win over the Sacramento Kings on Thursday, August 7 in which LeVert scored 22 points, seven assists, five rebounds, and three steals.
Indiana Pacers: TJ Warren
This dude has been one of the best players not only for the Pacers, but in the bubble. He’s been going OFF: 39.7 points per game on 60% shooting from three-point range. People who know basketball knew how good this guy was before the bubble, but he’s making other defenses look like fools. It sucks that he only got on mainstream media after his altercation with Jimmy Butler during a Pacers-Heat game, but he’s continuing his tear for a Pacers team that isn’t talked about enough.
Miami Heat: Duncan Robinson
You may not agree with me, but hear me out.
This year’s Heat team has an identity of being marksmen, and Robinson is one of the best three-point shooters in the league. We know that Jimmy Butler and Bam Adebayo, the latter of whom has risen up to a borderline superstar in this league, will get the job done, but if Duncan can keep shooting lights out, it’s going to be hard to stop Miami, who are a sleeper to get to the Finals. He’s had several stellar sniping performances, and I believe that his continuation of those will be the key to get the Heat over the hump, because no one has been shooting like him or his team this season.
Milwaukee Bucks: Eric Bledsoe
Again, you have to hear me out.
It’s obvious that Giannis Antetokounmpo has still been doing his thing for the Bucks in the bubble, but if they want to win a championship, which they have the potential of doing, Eric Bledsoe will have to step his game up when it’s time for the playoffs. I know Bledsoe will need time to recover from COVID-19, but he didn’t have a bad start, with eight points in 18 minutes. Giannis and Khris Middleton will get the job done, and just like with Caris LeVert, Bledsoe is rising up to be that missing piece in what could be a dominant trio, but he’ll need to elevate his postseason game to put the Bucks in the Finals.
Orlando Magic: Nikola Vucevic
There’s not much to say about the “home” team, as no one expects them to get past Milwaukee in the first round, but they have one of the most underrated centers in the league this season.
Vucevic did make the All-Star team last season, but no one has been talking about him this year like they should. The Magic haven’t been a strong team in a weak conference, and they’ve been 2-3 in the bubble so far after a strong 2-0 start. Although Evan Fournier and Terrence Ross have primarily been leading the offense, Vucevic will need to be on the top of his A-game to at least give Orlando a chance, as he’s truly their best player even if no one sees it.
Philadelphia 76ers: Joel Embiid
Who else could it really be right now?
Well, obviously, it could be Ben Simmons, but he isn’t. The 76ers have been extremely underwhelming this season; personally, I originally picked them to go to the NBA Finals. While that could very well still be a valid prediction, the disappointing form of the Sixers has come mainly from Embiid’s inconsistent health. However, when he’s healthy and on his game, he’s one of the best big men in the entire league. And he has been. He’s been ridiculously good in the bubble so far, averaging a little over 30 points per game and leading the Sixers to a current 4-1 record out of the eight seeding games. Now that Ben Simmons has a knee injury, Embiid’s excellent play will now be the one thing that will determine if Philadelphia can surprise some people and fulfill the season that’s been expected of them.
Toronto Raptors: Pascal Siakam
This team, who is now my favorite to reach the Finals for the second consecutive time, has been the best team in the bubble, even without Kawhi Leonard.
Kawhi was the main man last year, and rightfully so, but Spicy P has surged to All-Star level, accompanying another All-Star in Kyle Lowry as well as a team who is confident in themselves more than ever right now. No player, from Fred VanVleet to OG Anunoby, has seemed to fall off a lot, and Canada’s boys are a force to be reckoned with in a year where they were expected to barely make the playoffs, if make them at all. Still claiming their second seed in the East, the Raptors’ success has come the most from Siakam’s rise to a superstar in the NBA, and the guy has a chance to win Most Improved Player for the second year in a row! What a player he has been this year as well as in the bubble, and what a team he plays for. Don’t sleep on Siakam or Toronto.
Washington Wizards: Thomas Bryant
We now go from the best team in the bubble to one of the worst.
We’re only going to put Thomas Bryant here because he’s been the best player for them in the bubble so far, leading the team in points three times out of four, rebounds twice, and assists once. However, without John Wall (still) and Bradley Beal, they were never going to make it into the playoffs, and they now have a worse winning percentage than the already-eliminated Charlotte Hornets. The Wizards should kiss their playoff hopes goodbye, but Bryant is a stud in his own right. When Beal and Wall come back, and if he gets better, the Wizards have potential to get right back into that playoff talk.
Which team do you think will come out of the East? Comment down below! Don’t forget to check out our social media profiles!