While watching Jimmy Butler have his way with the Lakers last night and then all the praise that came afterwards, I started to think about what this bubble run has meant for the perception of Butler as a player. My brain then wandered to thinking about the bubble as a whole and all the incredible performances we've seen since things started up in July. Who raised their stock the most? Who do we look at completely different after their work in Orlando? Below are some guys that I'm really interested in seeing next season and if anything we saw during the bubble will actually translate.
Remember when Devin Booker looked like the best player in the entire goddamn league as the Suns went 8-0 in their seeding games? That feels like 10 years ago. Pre-bubble, when you thought about Devin Booker you knew he was always a great scorer, but I think he proved that he is absolutely the #1 option the Suns hope he develops into. The numbers speak for themselves, 30/5/6 on 50% shooting, in my mind Booker went from a guy putting up big numbers on a team that kinda stunk, to someone who can put up huge numbers and actually lead his team to wins. There's a difference there. He wasn't just putting up empty stats, he was beating the best of the best on a nightly basis and was efficient while he did it.TJ Warren
TJ Warren is another guy that had a huge bump in perception due to his bubble performance. Unless you're someone who watched a lot of Suns or Pacers basketball, you probably were caught off guard by the work Warren put in while down in Orlando. Even if his production obviously wasn't sustainable, the dude was putting up 30 a game on 52/50% splits in the seeding games. He came back down to earth averaging just 20 a game in the playoffs, but here's what we learned. TJ Warren is absolutely a legit #2 option as a wing scorer. This is important for the Pacers especially with the future of Victor Oladipo in doubt. I think they can be more comfortable moving on from Oladipo knowing they have a legit scorer in Warren. Before the bubble, maybe they over extend themselves in an effort to keep Oladipo. But now they don't have to do that and can use those resources elsewhere.
Butlers situation is a little different. He was always a star. A top 15 player based on who you ask. But I think what we're seeing unfold before our eyes is Butler's ascension into a potential "superstar" status. One that can actually be a #1 option on a title team. Granted we still have to see how the Finals shake out, but before the bubble it felt like at best Butler was a #2 guy, maybe even a #3. Well that's not the thing of the past. You can absolutely build around Butler as your main guy.
In my opinion Butler's leap is the hardest step any player can make, because that "superstar" tier is so exclusive. I'm not someone who thinks there are like 10+ superstars in the league. If the Heat somehow win the title it's cemented for sure, but even without it as long as he continues his insane play and makes this a competitive series, I think Butler has squeaked his way in anyway.
I'm really interested to see what version of Jamal Murray we get next season. He went up about 10 levels in his bubble run, and in my opinion went from a piece to the puzzle to being pretty much on the same level as their franchise player in Jokic. I'm not sure that was the case heading into the bubble. Murray was legit as a young scorer, but he elevated himself to a #1 option caliber player. The shot making, the efficiency, it was all waaaaayyyyy better than what we saw during the regular season.
Remember, Murray has never even been an All Star. So for me he went from being a good role player next to Jokic to a legit All Star talent. That's why I can't wait to see him next season. I know the West is loaded at his position, but he absolutely should be putting up All Star caliber numbers after what we saw in Orlando.
Let me put Bam's rise into perspective. Before the bubble season started, how many times did you hear that Bam was the best big man in the East? Despite him being an All Star, we didn't really think of him that way. Those conversations were more around someone like Joel Embiid. Well let me ask you now. How many bigs would you take ahead of Bam in the East right now if you were building a team in 2020? I think the answer is honestly 0. He doesn't even have a three point shot yet and it doesn't matter! He defends at a high level, he rebounds at a high level, he facilitates like he's a guard, he can defend multiple positions, you could absolutely make the case he's had one of the biggest rises of anyone in the league these last few months.
This isn't to say he wasn't good before. Like I said the dude was an All Star. But now he's perceived as the best at his position, which is pretty nuts but totally valid.Tyler Herro
I know we have a lot of Heat players on here but that's what happens when you have the run they are experiencing. Heading into the bubble Tyler Herro didn't even make First Team All Rookie. He was a nice role player who had a ton of potential, a guy who could shoot, but he was nowhere near the level he's at right now. Part of that is because the dude keeps coming through in HUGE moments. It's not just the ECF and the damage he did against the Celtics. Just look at what he did last night in the fourth quarter. If we were to do a 2019 re-draft, does it make it out of the top 5? I say no chance. That's a pretty legit jump if you ask me.
I'm sure I could list more, but you get the idea. I'm interested to see who you think has changed their perception the most while down in Orlando. What I mean is, Dame or Mitchell going off didn't really change much in how they are viewed. AD and LeBron dominating the way they are is expected. Who surprised you most with their play and who are you excited to see next season? Let's hear em.