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  • Writer's pictureDan Carney

the bubble's top 50

These are my top 50 guys that are playing in the NBA's bubble. I took talent, stats, and team impact into account when forming this list. You can disagree, but don't hate me. This is based on their play up until now and my expectations going forward.

1. LeBron James

PPG: 25.5  RPG: 8  APG: 10.5  FG%: 49.5  3PFG%: 34.9  PER: 25.9  WS: 9.5  

He's the best player on the team favored to win the title and there's still no one in the league that can stop him.

2. Giannis Antetokounmpo

PPG: 29.8   RPG: 13.8  APG: 5.8  FG%: 55  3PFG%: 30.7  PER: 31.8  WS: 10.7  

The best player on the team with the best record and my favorite for MVP (despite being a huge LeBron guy). I would love nothing more than a Bucks/Lakers Finals, it's what we all deserve after this shit year.

3. Kawhi Leonard

PPG: 26.8  RPG: 7.2  APG: 5  FG%: 46.7  3PFG%: 37.1  PER: 26.8  WS: 8  

The reigning Finals MVP has a strong case for winning a second straight title and there's few guys I would want with the last shot in a playoff game other than Kawhi. Is his current supporting cast better than the Raptors are right now?

4. Anthony Davis

PPG: 26.6  RPG: 9.3  APG: 3.1  FG%: 50.8  3PFG%: 33.7  PER: 28  WS: 10.7  

AD put together a dominant season and is on everyone's short list of guys favored to win DPOY (Giannis included). If a series between the Lakers and Bucks ends up happening, look for Davis to get some stops against the Greek Freak.

5. James Harden

PPG: 34.6  RPG: 6.4  APG: 7.4  FG%: 43.9  3PFG%: 35.2  PER: 28.7  WS: 12  

Still the league's best scorer and arguably more to prove than anyone else in the bubble. I think Harden's competitiveness gets written off because of his gaudy numbers and no Finals births, but him and Westbrook are very much all in on winning it this season. The Rockets are a real threat in the West.

6. Damian Lillard

PPG: 28.9  RPG: 4.3  APG: 7.8   FG%: 45.7  3PFG%: 39.2  PER: 26  WS: 9.7  

Just an absolute assassin and one of my favorite players to watch maybe ever. You can feel the guy refusing to lose when watching Portland play, which means we should see some huge games from Dame in the coming weeks as the Blazers fight for that last playoff spot.

7. Luka Doncic

PPG: 28.7  RPG: 9.4  APG: 8.7  FG%: 46  3PFG%: 31.4  PER: 27.3  WS: 7.9  

There's a real chance this is the lowest Luka is on a top 50 active list for the rest of his career, he's just that good. He'll continue to get more efficient, which is scary considering his Mavericks team is the most efficient offensive team in NBA history. They were my dark horse team out West, but they have a hard time closing games, and that doesn't fair well for guys looking to advance in the playoffs.

8. Paul George

PPG: 21.3  RPG: 5.7  APG: 3.8  FG%: 43.8  3PFG%: 41.4  PER: 21  WS: 4.3  

His numbers don't jump out at you like they did last year when he was in OKC, but part of that is due to his lagging injuries on both of his shoulders. So far in two bubble games he's scored 58 points on 14 3-pointers, so look out for a well-rested PG13 to dominate the competition once again.

9. Russell Westbrook

PPG: 27.5  RPG: 8.1  APG: 7  FG%: 47.3  3PFG%: 25.4  PER: 21.4  WS: 4.3  

I'm slowly falling in love with these small-ball Rockets. I watched them beat the Bucks last night who have a front line that makes Houston look like my 8th-grade YMCA team. Their defense looked phenomenal. Russ is flirting with a 30 point triple double over two bubble games so far and is shooting better (and less) from deep. It's going to be a fun couple months.

10. Jayson Tatum

PPG: 23.3   RPG: 7.1  APG: 3  FG%: 44.3  3PFG%: 39.4  PER: 19.9  WS: 6  

His first bubble game against the Bucks was abysmal, but he rebounded excellently with a 34-4-8 game against Portland on Sunday. If he plays like he did before the pandemic hit, expect the Celtics to contend in the East.

11. Nikola Jokic

PPG: 20.2  RPG: 10.2  APG: 6.8  FG%: 52.7  3PFG%: 31.2  PER: 24.9  WS: 9.1  

Some people will say he should be higher on this list, but until the Nuggets prove they're not just a regular season team I can't move him up. Bol Bol hasn't played much in the seeding games so far, but I'd love to see him incorporated more in their offense to open things up even more for the elite passer Jokic.

12. Jimmy Butler

PPG: 20.3  RPG: 6.6  APG: 6.1  FG%: 45.6  3PFG%: 24.8  PER: 23.6  WS: 8.8  

He's the undisputed leader on an extremely tough Miami Heat team that has enough shooting and defensive capability to upset someone in the East. His numbers don't necessarily jump out at you, but those 8.8 win shares prove just how valuable he is to his team's success.

13. Chris Paul

PPG: 17.7  RPG: 5  APG: 6.8  FG%: 49.1  3PFG%: 36.4  PER: 21.9  WS: 8.3  

CP3 is still an elite player. Co-Coach-of-the-Year Billy Donovan deserves a ton of credit for the Thunder's play this season, but Paul is very much an extension of him on the court. Pretty much everyone including myself thought he was going to OKC to mentor young guys and play meaningless basketball, but he showed us up by reminding the world that he's a top point guard in this league and can lead a team to the playoffs.

14. Joel Embiid

PPG: 23.8  RPG: 12  APG: 3.1  FG%: 47.9  3PFG%: 34.3  PER: 26.7  WS: 6  

So I originally had Donovan Mitchell here and Embiid behind him and Pascal, but then I realized I may have underrated him because his team didn't dominate the way I'd hoped for this season. Embiid is undoubtedly one of the most talented players in the NBA - when he's healthy. He looked great in his first game against Indiana, dropping 41-21-4 to go along with 3 blocks on 15/23 shooting in a loss to TJ Warren and the Pacers (who scored a career high 53 points that night), but it honestly feels like he can do that every night. This is going to be a big summer for the 76ers whether they win or not. Does Brett Brown stay in Philly if they don't at least reach the conference finals?

15. Donovan Mitchell

Mitchell PPG: 24  RPG: 4.3  APG: 4.2  FG%: 45.2  3PFG%: 36.2  PER: 18.9  WS: 5.3  

You could argue CJ McCollum is better. The fact that the buck stops with Spida is the main reason he's above Portlands 2-guard, and the burden is only heavier with 20ppg-scorer Bogdanavic out for the remainder of the season.

16. Pascal Siakam

PPG: 23.5  RPG: 7.6  APG: 3.6  FG%: 45.6  3PFG%: 36.1  PER: 18.6  WS: 5.3  

Siakam looked great in his first season as the first option on offense and has the Raptors poised for another deep playoff run in 2020. Look out for Toronto.

17. Ben Simmons

PPG: 16.7  RPG: 7.9  APG: 8.1  FG%: 58.5  3PFG%: 33.3   PER: 20.7  WS: 7  

The guy who's afraid to shoot 3's has assisted on more 3-pointers than anyone else in the NBA since his debut in 2017. He's crazy efficient from inside the paint and is one of the best defenders in the league.

18. CJ McCollum

PPG: 22.7  RPG: 4.1  APG: 4.3  FG%: 45.7  3PFG%: 38.1  PER: 17.6  WS: 3.9  

I'm a huge fan of CJ's game. The regular season numbers speak for themselves, but he's even better in the playoffs. The Blazers don't make a run to the Western Conference Finals last year without him.

19. Rudy Gobert

PPG: 15  RPG: 13.6  APG: 1.5  FG%: 69.7  3PFG%:  PER: 21.6     WS: 10.2  

His 10.2 win shares show just how important Gobert is to the Jazz. He's a 2x DPOY on a team that should consistently compete for home court advantage in the playoffs for the next 3-5 years.

20. Devin Booker

PPG: 26.1  RPG: 4.2  APG: 6.5  FG%: 48.5       3PFG%: 35.9  PER: 19.7  WS: 6.1  

I would love to see the Suns good enough again to garner a national spotlight for Booker to thrive under. He's still just 23, and has improved each year he's been in the league since he was just 19. The Suns are 2-0 so far in the restart.

21. Zion Williamson

PPG: 22.3  RPG: 6.4  APG: 2  FG%: 59  3PFG%: 46.2  PER: 23.6  
WS: 1.7  

The Pelicans need to just give up on the minutes restrictions and unleash Zion if they want to stay in Orlando this fall.

22. Kyle Lowry

PPG: 20  RPG: 5  APG: 7.6  FG%: 41.9  3PFG%: 35.8  PER: 18.2  
WS: 7.2  

Kyle Lowry was drafted in 2006. Does anyone else feel like he's played for like 20 seasons and had two completely different careers in the league? Anywho, he's played great this year and stepped up scoring with Kawhi gone.

23. Jaylen Brown

PPG: 20.5  RPG: 6.3  APG: 2.2  FG%: 48.8  3PFG%: 37.8  PER: 17.1  WS: 4.6  

I think he'll absolutely be higher on this list if I make another at the end of the bubble experience. He closed that game against the Trail Blazers on Sunday.

24. Kemba Walker

PPG: 21.1  RPG: 4  APG: 4.9  FG%: 42.2  3PFG%: 37.8  PER: 20.3  WS: 5.5  

The Celtics are just so freaking talented. They have 4 guys who can go out and give you 30 on any given night. Kemba is a walking bucket and has taken a backseat to Tatum and even Brown during his first season in Boston, but that's because he cares about winning over anything else.

25. Khris Middleton

PPG: 21  RPG: 6.2  APG: 4.2  FG%: 49.4  3PFG%: 41.3  PER: 21.3  WS: 7.4  

He's sooo close to a 50/40/90 season, and if he gets there he'll be the second Buck to do it in the last three seasons (Malcolm Brogdon did it during the 2018-2019 season). He's been great for Milwaukee on defense as well, and I'm even starting to love seeing him bring the ball up for the Bucks.

26. Kristaps Porzingis

Kristaps PPG: 19.6  RPG: 9.6  APG: 1.8  FG%: 42.2  3PFG%: 35  PER: 19.7  WS: 4.5 

The OG Unicorn finally gets to play meaningful basketball after spending the first few seasons on the Knicks. He played great before the pandemic hit while Doncic was out with injury, and I believe he can sustain that level of productivity especially with extra time to heal from a torn ACL. He had 39 and 30 in his first two bubble games. He might be higher on this list by the end of the season.

27. Jrue Holiday

PPG: 19.3  RPG: 4.9  APG: 6.8  FG%: 45.2  3PFG%: 35.5  PER: 17.3  WS: 3.9  

Defensive anchor, team leader, playoff baller. He averaged nearly 24 a game last time the Pelicans were in the playoffs, and NO will be leaning on him again these next few weeks to bring them back to the postseason. He had a rough night against the Clippers, but then again so did everyone else on his team.

28. Bam Adebayo

Bam PPG: 16.3  RPG: 10.5  APG: 5.1  FG%: 56.8  3PFG%: 7.7  PER: 20.7  WS: 8.3  

He's quickly becoming one of my favorite players in the NBA. He's a versatile big who can pass, rebound, and defend, and made his first All-Star game this year at just 23. Check out that PER and those win shares, too.

29. Ja Morant

PPG: 17.7  RPG: 3.6  APG: 7  FG%: 48.7  3PFG%: 35.6  PER: 17.9  WS: 3.4 

HIs numbers don't stray too far from Holiday, but Jrue is more experienced and is a better on-ball defender. I love Ja's competitive edge, though. He plays with a chip on his shoulder and reminds me of Westbrook though is more polished at the same age. Guy is gonna be a real problem in the league and is already Memphis's leader.

30. Fred VanVleet

PPG: 17.5  RPG: 3.8  APG: 6.7  FG%: 41  3PFG%: 38.8   PER: 15.9  WS: 5  

I moved him from like 43 to 30 while working on this list. He's a champion, he's clutch, and he's having the best season of his career and absolutely balling in the bubble. He's even more valuable to his team this year and played 40 minutes against the Lakers and 42 minutes against the Heat, both wins.

31. Jamal Murray

Jamal Murray PPG: 18.8  RPG: 3.9  APG: 4.8  FG%: 45.5  3PFG%: 34.5  PER: 17.5  WS: 4.1  

Your team needs a go-to iso scorer in the playoffs to help close games, and Murray has shown flashes of that during his tenure on the Nuggets. Porter has been great for Denver, but Murray is still the Joker's best option.

32. Victor Oladipo

Oladipo PPG: 13.9  RPG: 3.4  APG: 2.9  FG%: 39.4  3PFG%: 30.7  PER: 11.9  WS: 0  

He would be higher on this list if he were healthy, but look for him to hit some big shots late in games for Indiana this postseason.

33. Lou Williams

PPG: 18.7  RPG: 3.1  APG: 5.7  FG%: 41.6  3PFG%: 36.3  PER: 17.2  WS: 3.9  

Both PG13 and Kawhi have looked great so far for the Clippers, beating the Pelicans by 23 without Lou Will. Imagine what they can do with the best bench scorer in NBA history suited up.

34. Montrezl Harrell

PPG: 18.6  RPG: 7.1  APG: 1.7  FG%: 58  3PFG%: 0  PER: 23.1  WS: 7.1  

His numbers are just incredible. What a luxury it is to have this guy coming off your bench. Good defender also.

35. Damontas Sabonis*

PPG: 18.5  RPG: 12.4  APG: 5  FG%: 54  3PFG%: 25.4  PER: 20.7  WS: 7.5  

A versatile passing big man like Sabonis is one of the most valuable assets a team can have in today's game with the number of pick-and-rolls that they run. I think Bam is a better defender, but both of these guys should be All-Star locks at their position.

*I wrote this list intending to leave off injured players but I fucked up. There's still a chance he plays though!

36. Marcus Smart

PPG: 13.6  RPG: 3.9  APG: 4.8  FG%: 38.4  3PFG%: 35  PER: 14.2  WS: 4.2  

When I said I was forming this list based off the impact a player has on a team, this is one of the guys I specifically had in mind. His numbers don't jump out at you, but if you watch literally any Celtics games you see just how important he is to their success. He makes at least three or four plays a game that sway momentum in Boston's favor, and not to mention he's a DPOY candidate this year.

37. Gordon Hayward

PPG: 17.3   RPG: 6.6  APG: 4.2  FG%: 50.1  3PFG%: 38.5  PER: 18.1  WS: 5  

I think he's underrated. I really like him bringing the ball up for Boston; he's a great passer, and he can create mismatches while teams are struggling to defend one of Tatum, Kemba, or Jaylen Brown. Very efficient and a great free throw shooter too.

38. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander

PPG: 19.3  RPG: 6  APG: 3.3   FG%: 47.3  3PFG%: 35.2  PER: 18  WS: 5.8  

He improved in his second season with OKC and showed he can be a capable scorer with an increased workload. I can see him scoring in the low-to-mid 20's in his prime. He's a bigger guard with great wingspan who can defend multiple positions and rebound the ball well. I'd like to see him improve as a playmaker, but I'm sure learning from CP3 will help with that.

39. Nikola Vucevic

PPG: 19.5  RPG: 11  APG: 3.8  FG%: 47.3  3PFG%: 32.8  PER: 21.8  WS: 5.7  

He would likely be higher up if his team was better. The Magic sort of just have him on offense and nobody else. He's been on that team for eight seasons, gotta feel for the guy.

40. Caris LeVert

PPG: 17.7  RPG: 4  APG: 4.2  FG%: 41.4  3PFG%: 37.3  PER: 15.1  WS: 1.1  

He's the most valuable (healthy) player on his team right now and has looked good through two seeding games for the Nets, who along with the Magic are the most boring teams in the bubble (I'm ignoring the fact that the Wizards are involved).

41. Jusuf Nurkic

(through 2 games) PPG: 24  RPG: 9  APG: 5  FG%: 54.8  3PFG%: 25  PER: 26.3  WS:  

Arguably no player has benefited more from the extended break than Nurkic, who played his first game this season against the Grizzlies last Friday and was much needed in a close win. The Blazers are a real threat with him in their lineup.

42. De'Aaron Fox

PPG: 20.8  RPG: 4  APG: 6.7  FG%: 47.7  3PFG%: 30  PER: 20.6  WS: 3.6

He had a huge 39 point game in a loss against the Spurs on Friday and then a mere 13 in another loss to the Magic. I don't think the Kings are getting in the playoffs this season, but Fox is a big part of their future at just 22 years old.

43. Tobias Harris

PPG: 19.5  RPG: 6.8  APG: 3.1  FG%: 47.3  3PFG%: 36.3  PER: 16.9  WS: 5.7  

So far during the bubble he's playing great, averaging 27.5ppg over 2 games and a close win against the Spurs. The Sixers need him to help space the floor and hit big shots if they want to achieve their goal of winning a championship.

44. Malcolm Brogdon

PPG: 16.3  RPG: 4.7  APG: 7.1  FG%: 43.9  3PFG%: 31.3  PER: 17.7  WS: 3.4  

I always liked what he did for Milwaukee in the playoffs, being a guy who will take it to the hole and get you a bucket when it matters most. His efficiency dropped this year in an expanded role with Indiana, but he's still Mr. 50/40/90 and has always been a fearless player with good defense.

45. DeMar DeRozan

PPG: 22.2  RPG: 5.6  APG: 5.6  FG%: 53  3PFG%: 27.3  PER: 21.6  WS: 6.7  

He's the Spurs' best scorer and has seriously improved as a playmaker with San Antonio in his last two seasons. The Spurs are looking good so far in the restart, but they'll need DeRozan to score more if they want to compete with some of the high octane offenses in the West.

46. Dennis Schroeder

PPG: 18.9  RPG: 3.7  APG: 4  FG%: 46.9  3PFG%: 37.9  PER: 16.7  WS: 3.5  

He's on the short list this year for the Lou Williams Award AKA the Sixth Man of The Year and he's a part of an underrated backcourt with CP3 and SGA. I've always been a fan of his game and his ability to score the basketball and get stops on the opposite end of the floor.

47. Jaren Jackson Jr.

PPG: 17.2  RPG: 4.7  APG: 1.4  FG%: 46.7  3PFG%: 39.4  PER: 16.2  WS: 3.3  

He's so skilled offensively. If he can add some muscle and up those rebounding numbers, he will be a very scary player to match up against.

48. Pat Beverly

PPG: 8  RPG: 5.3  APG: 3.7  FG%: 42.9  3PFG%: 38.8  PER: 12.5  WS: 3.6  

Again, not all of these guys have huge numbers. His 3PFG% is very respectable, but it's his defense and tenacity that elevates his teammates' play and make him so valuable. For reference, rewatch the end of the Clippers/Lakers Christmas game.

49. Carmelo Anthony

PPG: 15.3  RPG: 6.2  APG: 1.6  FG%: 42.8  3PFG%: 37.7  PER: 12.2  WS: 1  

Look, I've never been a big Melo guy. I'm not a Melo hater, I just don't think you can win a title with him being the best player on your team. But I've softened up over the years, and there's something about hitting rock bottom that can bring the best out of people. Since getting his chance with Portland, Carmelo Anthony has hit big shots and provided much needed scoring from the wing position - something the Blazers have really never had in recent memory. He played well against Memphis and hit the shot to ice the game, and I expect more of that in the next few weeks.

50. Eric Bledsoe

Bledsoe PPG: 15.4 RPG: 4.6 APG: 5.4 FG%: 48.2 3PFG%: 34.8 PER: 18.1
WS: 5.3

He's been in the All-Star conversation each of the past few years and is one of maybe two guys other than Giannis who can create their own shot for the Bucks (George Hill is the other). He has great on-ball defense, though he is inconsistent at times with attacking on offense and turning the ball over. He's been hurt, and that's why he's not ahead of some of these other guys, but he's finally coming back this week and will look to get involved in the offense early to catch a rhythm for the playoffs.

Obviously there's a fair amount of subjectivity when it comes to ranking your top 50 anything, especially in the 26-50 spaces. I spent hours on this list and could take even longer rearranging and re-ranking more than I already have, but I like these decisions and feel they'll reflect somewhat accurately during the NBA restart. I didn't include players like Michael Porter Jr or TJ Warren because they weren't on a hot streak when I started this list. I'm sure by the end of the bubble experience there will be plenty of changes that need to be made. I love feedback and would love to hear what you think about this list so HMU on whatever social platform you like best and listen to "The Dan Show" podcast to hear more of my reasonings. :)

Twitter: @danmancarney

IG: @danrcarney

Find me on YouTube "Dan Carney"

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