The Orlando Bubble has been nothing if not exciting so far. With playoff seedings (and playoff spots) on the line, some unlikely heroes have stepped up to deliver for their teams. Whether they’re quality players making a jump towards stardom, bench pieces stepping up big, or relative unknowns making an impact, here are the biggest breakout players in the Orlando Bubble.
Gary Trent Jr.
Bubble Stats: 20.3 PPG, 1.8 RPG, 1.8 APG, 22 Three-Pointers Made
In Orlando, Gary Trent Jr has gone from a quality three-point sniper off the bench to leading the entire league in three-pointers made through the first four games. To say his shooting has been hot would be a massive understatement. On nearly nine attempts from deep per game, he is shooting a better percentage beyond the arc than from within it. With him on the court, Portlands offense has been downright nuclear to the tune of a 164 offensive rating. He is also showing his worth as a defender. The Blazers have asked him to guard a variety of positions in the bubble and he has been well above average. While his incredible shooting streak will most likely not continue, Trent Jr. has certainly made himself known as one the games truly elite three-point artists.
Bubble Stats: 33.8 PPG, 7.0 RPG, 2.8 APG, 2.0 SPG + 1.8 BPG
While always known as an effective scorer, especially from the mid-range, few would have expected TJ Warren to be tied for the league lead in scoring at 33.8 points per game in Orlando. In a competitive eastern conference, his efforts have helped the Pacers get out to a blazing 3-1 start. He made national headlines during Indiana’s first game when he dropped a career-high 53 points in a big win versus Philadelphia. In his next two games, both Pacers wins, Warren dropped 30 plus. He’s also been a defensive spark plug, averaging nearly two blocks and two steals a game. If Warren continues this incredible scoring run, Indiana will be a lot to handle for any team in the eastern conference.
Michael Porter Jr.
Bubble Stats: 26.3 PPG, 10.0 RPG, 1.5 APG, 57/50/94 Shooting Splits
Before a serious back injury forced him to sit out the better part of two seasons, Michael Porter Jr. was considered the premier prospect of the 2018 draft class. In Orlando, he is finally starting to deliver on that promise in a major way. Head coach Michael Malone has made Porter Jr. work for his playing time, both to force him to work on all aspects of his game and to avoid another serious injury. With Jamal Murray injured, he has seen a massive increase in both his playing time and production. Porter Jr’s breakout is a dream scenario for the Nuggets, who now have a bonafide third star beside Jokic and Murray. If Porter and Murray mesh well together upon Murray’s return, Denver has a great chance of making their first conference finals appearance since 2009
Bubble Stats: 15.5 PPG, 2.9 RPG, 0.2 APG, Two Games with 20+ PTS
A former first-round pick of Philadelphia, Timothé Luwawu-Cabarrot was dangerously close to being out of the league after being waived by the Cleveland Cavaliers in October. But an injury-riddled Brooklyn Nets handed him a lifeline and by February he had played his way from a two-way contract into a two year deal with the team. In Orlando, he’s more than proven his worth for the Nets to the tune of two career games. Versus Orlando, he tied his career-high of 24 points on just 12 shots including five three-pointers. But it was his performance versus the NBA best Milwaukee Bucks that really caught the league’s attention. In a surprise Brooklyn win, Timothé led all scorers with 26 points including several key buckets down the stretch. While he may never be a star in the NBA, Luwawu-Cabarrot has certainly proven that he belongs.
Bubble Stats: 21.3 PPG, 4.8 RPG, 5.8 APG, 45% 3P
While I predicted Dejounte Murray to be the key piece in San Antonio’s backcourt in Orlando, it’s been his backup Derrick White who’s really stepped up his game. With starting shooting guard Bryn Forbes out with a quad injury, White has stepped into the Spurs starting lineup and immediately delivered. He is one of the most well-rounded guards in the league and has proven as much over the past four games with his all-around offensive play and solid defensive work. He and Murray have great chemistry in San Antonio’s backcourt. Both are quality defenders and capable facilitators, meaning either one can run the offense on any given possession. The Spurs will need both of them to continue to work in tandem if they want to make a late run at the Western Conferences final playoff spot.
All stats courtesy of Basketball-Reference
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