With the NBA announcing there will be a Bubble MVP and an All-NBA Bubble team, let’s take a look at who deserves to be named the MVP of the bubble games.
There are three big names that jump out at first: Damian Lillard, Devin Booker, and T.J. Warren. You could argue people like Luka Doncic or Giannis Antetokounmpo may deserve it, but their record is holding them back. Luka is averaging a triple-double in the bubble but the Mavericks are now 3-5 and so are the Bucks.
While (namely) Luka’s numbers are widely impressive, it doesn’t do him much good if he isn’t actually winning games — even if he’s already in the playoffs.
From our list of three potential candidates, let’s eliminate one: T.J. Warren.
This may come as a surprise as he was one of the leading scorers in the bubble and had been recently going off. But, the bubble was only 8 games long. So, having a single bad game can have dire consequences on their rating for MVP. In his game against the Heat, Jimmy Buckets locked him down. T.J’s stat line at the game mimicked what you’d expect from a role player, not a person who is in the conversation for a MVP award. He put up a measly 12 points and 5 boards — a far cry from the 39 points he put up against the Lakers one game prior. And for this reason, he’s out.
Now Dame and Booker are both pretty close in my book.
Damian Lillard put up 42, 61 and 51 points in the last three games (he had 5 games over 30 points) and is averaging over 37 points per game in the bubble while Booker is averaging a little under 30 points per game. While both of these are impressive, Damian Lillard is basically carrying the whole team on his back. Devin Booker, even though he’s the primary reason the Suns finished 8-0, doesn’t have to do as much of the heavy lifting that Dame is doing — like Damian Lillard’s game on Thursday for example. He carried the Blazers to the win.
That’s not to take away from the impressive stuff that Devin Booker is pulling, however, like hitting a game winner over Paul George. Dame choked his two free throws to beat the Clippers on the other hand.
Following this choke, Damian Lillard went off. He put up 51, 61, and 42 points in the last three games. That 61-point game was his third 60-plus-point game of the season, making him and Wilt Chamberlain the only two people in NBA history to do so. Against the Nuggets last week, Dame became the first player in history to record 45+ points, 10+ assists, 10+ threes in a single game. Booker’s also set some records, but they aren’t NBA wide ones. For example, this is the first time in Booker’s career that the Suns have won more than four games straight. Sad… I know. Regardless, they are winning games so what else can you really ask? At least they can leave the bubble knowing they shocked the world and made big strides as a team.
But, the one thing Devin Booker has on Dame is record. I excluded Luka and Giannis from the final three because of their sub 0.500 record, so by the same logic I should be giving Devin Booker the bubble MIVP. I mean, the Blazers finished 6-2 while the Suns were somehow 8-0! But… I just can’t.
Damian Lillard is playing out of this world. He’s setting records, putting up ridiculous stats, and carrying an entire team on his back to the 8th seed which also makes him the most fun player to watch right now by a good margin. And all this work has accumulated into having a shot at the playoffs while even though Devin Booker had a perfect record, he doesn’t get that shot (at no fault of his own).
For those reasons, I’m giving my bubble MVP to Damian Lillard. Call it bias or whatever you want, but I wholeheartedly think Dame deserves this.
And he’s right, “put some respect on [his]f—ing name.”
Here was the Nets’s plan to stop Damian Lillard on Thursday night. Hint: it didn’t work.