They won’t exactly be as meaningful as the end-of-season MVP, All-NBA, and Coach of the Year awards, but the NBA will announce the winners of similar awards for its summer bubble on Saturday. Based exclusively on performances from July 30 to August 14, the league will name a Player of the Seeding Games, a Coach of the Seeding Games, and an All-Seeding Games Team.
The one-off awards will give the NBA an opportunity to shine a spotlight on the summer’s most pleasant surprises, such as the 8-0 Suns, the only undefeated team of the restart. Phoenix didn’t end up qualifying for a play-in tournament in the Western Conference, but it seems safe to assume that coach Monty Williams and star Devin Booker (30.5 PPG, 6.0 APG) will get plenty of award votes from media members this week.
With apologies to Jacque Vaughn (Nets), Terry Stotts (Trail Blazers), Nick Nurse (Raptors), and a few other worthy candidates, Williams looks like the overwhelming favorite for the Coach of the Bubble award. The Suns were viewed by many observers as unworthy of an invite to Orlando, but their 8-0 run – without key veterans like Aron Baynes and Kelly Oubre – left no doubt that they belonged.
Booker will face stiff competition for Player of the Bubble honors though. The frontrunner is probably Trail Blazers guard Damian Lillard, who averaged a staggering 51.3 PPG in his team’s last three games — Portland needed to win all three in order to qualify for a play-in tournament, and did, by a combined margin of seven points. Lillard, who averaged 37.6 PPG and 9.6 APG on .497/.436/.888 in eight total games, came up big when it mattered most for the Blazers.
John Hollinger of The Athletic and D.J. Foster of The Athletic each included Booker and Lillard on their All-Bubble First Team alongside Rockets guard James Harden, Pacers forward T.J. Warren, and Mavericks guard Luka Doncic.
Harden has put up numbers that are even more eye-popping than usual in six games at Walt Disney World, averaging 35.3 PPG, 9.2 RPG, 8.7 APG, and 3.0 SPG as the Rockets moved up a spot in the standings.
Warren will miss Indiana’s last two games, but his 53-point performance on August 1 vs. Philadelphia was one of the single-best games of the summer. He finished with averages of 31.0 PPG and 6.3 RPG on .578/.524/.889 shooting.
Doncic, meanwhile, came just two assists away from averaging a triple-double in seven summer games, with 30.0 PPG, 10.1 RPG, and 9.7 APG.
There are other worthy contenders for All-Bubble First Team consideration, including some of the usual suspects, such as Bucks star Giannis Antetokounmpo (27.8 PPG, 12.2 RBG, 4.2 APG, .626 FG%) and Clippers star Kawhi Leonard (28.8 PPG, 4.8 RPG, 4.3 APG, .479/.485/.865 shooting). Kristaps Porzingis was actually the Mavericks’ leading scorer over Doncic, with 30.5 PPG, 9.5 RPG, and 1.5 BPG in six games.
And while their numbers aren’t quite as gaudy, young players like Nuggets forward Michael Porter Jr., Spurs guard Derrick White, and Nets wing Caris LeVert were among the most impressive summer performers.
What do you think? If you were voting for the same awards as media members – a Player of the Bubble, Coach of the Bubble, and two All-Bubble teams, what would your picks look like? Does a Lillard/Booker/Harden/Warren/Doncic First Team look right to you, or are there other players you believe deserve a First Team spot?
Head to the comment section below to weigh in with your thoughts!