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District of Buckets All-NBA Bubble Team

The NBA bubble games have lived up to the hype.

Every team in the bubble is playing hard, and the level of basketball has mimicked the first week of the regular season as many players have fresh legs and a rejuvenated hunger to compete among the world’s best.

With the final seeding games approaching, and the official NBA all-bubble team announcement this upcoming Saturday, I decided to put a team together consisting of some of the most impressive players in the NBA restart.

Without further ado, here is the District of Buckets All-NBA Bubble Team.

PG: Damian Lillard

Before basketball stopped, Dame was on one of the hottest stretches of scoring we’ve ever seen from a guard, and his return to basketball has continued his run of high-powered scoring.

Dame Lillard Erupts for 51 as Sixers Fall Short to Blazers

In the last two games, Lillard went off for a combined 112 points against the Mavs and Sixers, and his level of play has Portland sitting in the 8th playoff spot in the western conference.

Lillard told the media that he “Packed for the whole three months” and backed that statement up with his play — The Blazers can clinch their spot as the team to beat in the play-in game with a win in their next matchup.

Per game stats: 37.0 points, 4.4 rebounds, 9.3 assists

Shooting %: 48% field goal, 41.4% 3pt, 88.7% ft

Record: 5-2

+/- : 2.7

Fun Fact: Ever since Patrick Beverly clowned Dame for missing two go-ahead free throws, Lillard has shot 33-of-34 from the line. Dame is also the only Blazer with back-to-back 50-point games.

SG: Devin Booker

Devin Booker’s scoring is no surprise, but the 7-0 bubble winning streak for the Phoenix Suns is one of the biggest surprises in the NBA.

Booker earns his spot here in my lineup over both Harden and Luka Dončić for the one reason he’s often snubbed out of critical acclaim for his scoring abilities in the past — winning — yes, winning. The Suns 7-0 record in the bubble validates that his scoring ability translates to wins in a “win or go home” environment, and places him ahead of two guards that are performing at a similar level.

The Suns are tied with the Blazers and Grizzlies and need to win their next game to clinch a berth in the play-in series.

Per game stats: 31.0 points, 4.6 rebounds, 6.1 assists

Shooting %: 49.7% field goal, 34.9% 3pt, 93.5% ft

Record: 7-0

+/- : 8.0

Fun Fact: Devin Booker has scored exactly 35 points in three straight games.

SF: T.J. Warren

T.J. Warren was averaging 19.8 points per game heading into the bubble, but nobody expected him to put on an offensive clinic in Orlando.

NBA: T.J. Warren scores 53 points in Pacers win over Sixers

T.J. Warren has always been a good scorer, but his willingness to fire more from deep, and his ability to hit at a high clip has taken his game from solid to show-stopping.

After Domantas Sabonis’ injury early in the restart, Warren has established his place in the lineup even further and is a driving force for any continuing success Indiana might find in the bubble.

Based on his play for the Pacers, it is safe to say they got a monster return in a trade that only saw them give up cash considerations.

Per game stats: 31.0 points, 6.3 rebounds, 2.0 assists

Shooting %: 57.8% field goal, 52.4% 3pt, 88.9% ft

Record: 4-2

+/- : 11.7

Fun Fact: On August 1st, Warren put up 53 points on 69 percent shooting — Nice— against the 76ers.

PF: Kristaps Porzingis

I’m gonna be upfront and say that Kristaps’ place on this team is purely about putting the ball in the bucket. Porizngis is the only player on this list who holds a negative plus-minus and a sub .500 bubble record. However, he has been individually impressive and is the bubble player that I would want at the 4 in a lineup.

Porzingis scores at a high rate and his production will be desperately needed when the Mavs take on Clippers in the first round of the playoffs.

Per game stats: 30.5 points, 9.5 rebounds, 2.2 assists

Shooting %: 47.6% field goal, 38.1% 3pt, 89.1% ft

Record: 2-4

+/- : -4.7

Fun Fact: On July 31st, Kristaps had 39 points and 16 Rebounds against the Houston Rockets.

C: Joel Embiid

Joel Embiid has been playing great ball for the Sixers in the bubble. Embiid looks to be the main driving force for Philly in the playoffs, as they will be without Ben Simmons for the foreseeable future. Despite injuring his ankle and missing a game, Embiid’s play thus far has been enough for him to secure the center spot in my All-Bubble Team lineup.

Per game stats: 24.4 points, 11.6 rebounds, 2.8 assists

Shooting %: 51.2 field goal, 76% ft

Record: 3-2 in games played

+/- : 3.6

Fun Fact: In the Sixers’ loss to the Pacers in the bubble, Embiid put up 41 points and 21 rebounds.



Walking Bucket: Montrezl Harrell

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Heart, Passion, and a true example of a blue-collar hooper, Montrezl Harrell brings maximum energy when he steps on the floor — the self-proclaimed “modern-day Rodman” will bring his toughness to the Clippers title hunt when he returns to the NBA bubble.

Harrell finishes everything at the rack, as is evidenced by his 18.6 points per game on 58 percent shooting from the field.

Trez is a reliable two points around the rim, and brings attention inside that makes life easy for the phenomenal perimeter players that the Clippers have stacked on their roster.

He’s not a floor spacer, but he thrives where a power forward must thrive — rolling to the basket after setting hard screens. He also puts defenders on an island in isolation with ease and often sees multiple defenders crash the paint when he attacks.

On the defensive end, Harrell uses his physicality to intimidate scorers around the basket, and as a result, leads the Clippers in blocks with 1.1 per game.

Currently, Montrezl is dealing with a family issue away from the bubble. His absence —hopefully — is only temporary as it would be a pleasure to watch him play his part in the most dynamic bench duo in the NBA with fellow Clipper Lou Williams.

Clippers and Montrezl Harrell have been clicking on offense since ...
Harrell hanging on the rim (Los Angeles Times)

Can’t wait to see what he’s able to do when he returns.

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Walking Bucket: Emma Meesseman

In honor of the return of basketball this week, I wanted to remind you of—or introduce you to, one of the best scorers in the game, Washington Mystics forward Emma Meesseman.

Meesseman is a surgical scorer.

She picks her spots well, and when you mix good shooting with good shot selection, you get efficient scoring.

In the Mystics 2019 Finals run, Meesseman averaged 19.1 ppg while shooting 58.2 percent from the field, 58.1 percent from three, and 82.4 percent from the free-throw line.

Meesseman’s postseason marksmanship mirrored her regular season. In the regular season, she missed out on making the 50-40-90 club only by not having the required minimum amount of field goal attempts. (55.2 FG%, 42.2 3PT%, 90.5 FT%)

Aside from her sniper-like accuracy, Meesseman does a phenomenal job of using her size and footwork to create space in one-on-ones. She also moves incredibly well off-ball, and when paired with the talent on the Mystics, she always seems to be open.

As an individual defender when you run into a player this skilled, who doesn’t need much space to get a shot off, with a high basketball IQ, you’re helpless if they’re making shots that night.

Meesseman is one of the most accomplished Belgian basketball players of all time, and her career accolades speak for themselves, so get ready to experience the legend of “Playoff Emma” when the WNBA returns.

Be sure to tune into ESPN on July 30th at 6p.m EST to watch Emma and the Mystics go to work on national television against the Seattle Storm. (one of only three nationally televised games, all but three will be shown on local television.)

Report: WNBA receives high grades again in diversity hi ...

Link: Meesseman’s self-reflection on her championship journey

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TBT 2020 Recap

TBT 2020 lived up to the hype and served as an oasis in the middle of the sports desert during a tumultuous year. The tournament showed us that with a strict quarantine bubble and vigorous testing, sports can still take place even during a pandemic.

It was a pleasure to be granted media access to The TBT, and I am forever grateful for being able to get a close look at how sports media works. (Mostly via Zoom)

This post is a quick shoutout to the two teams who made the deep run to the title match, and a short video of some of the action that took place late in the tournament.

The Champs

The tournament delivered high-quality play and compelling storylines that captivated the attention of the basketball world for a “March Madness” like atmosphere in the middle of July.

Rising out of the madness were the Marquette Golden Eagles Alumni, who, behind Tournament MVP Darius Johnson-Odom, downed Sideline Cancer 78-73 in the title game and won the $1,000,000 prize.

The Golden Eagles Alumni (pic by Ben Solomon)

The Golden Eagles boasted four players with NBA experience. (Darius Johnson-Odom, Dwight Buycks, Travis Diener, and Jamil Wilson)

Experience at the highest level of basketball is what proved to be the difference as they remained cool, calm, and collective down the stretch.

The Golden Eagles also did a phenomenal job of holding Sideline Cancer’s leading scorer Marcus Keene to only 6 points on the night, a reward that validates the aggressive defensive scheme that was stressed the whole game.

We witnessed a great run from the Golden Eagles, and I’m looking forward to seeing how they will defend their title in TBT 2021.

Sideline Cancer

The TBT 2020 runner-up is first in the hearts of many.

Sideline Cancer represents the Greg and Kathy Griffith Family Foundation, a foundation dedicated to eradicating pancreatic cancer.

This incredibly talented team played for a great cause, and for their late teammate Jermaine Marshall.

You could notice their extra motivation, the backstory of the team struck an emotional cord as they delivered a magical run to the title game.

Marcus Keene, Mo Creek, and Remy Abell hit huge shots the whole tournament, and the team looked resilient after losing former Maryland big man Diamond Stone in the first game.

Through all the ups and downs, this team clawed and fought every single time they stepped on the floor.

I look to see them making noise yet again deep into TBT 2021.

TBT Highlight Mix

Walking Bucket: Isaiah Thomas

Basketball—at its core—is a simple game.

You can analyze it in a million different ways, but at the end of the day, if you want to stand atop the NBA’s best offensively, the ball has to go in the bucket.

This week, I wanted to show my appreciation for one of my favorite players to watch, a player who is the personification of the term Walking Bucket.

Isaiah Thomas has been scoring at a high level for as long as I can remember, I was first introduced to his game when I watched his Washington Huskies in the 2011 Pac-10 Tournament. (Now the Pac-12)

Thomas’ moment of the tournament occurred in the championship game versus the Arizona Wildcats.

In overtime, tied 75-75, I watched as Thomas—who by the way, had 28 points on 10 of 16 shooting—slowly walked the ball up the floor, shook his opponent with a right-to-left cross that he turned into a stepback fadeaway jumper that sailed through the basket as time expired.

“SHAKE, CROSSOVER, STEPBAAAACK!!!!”- Gus Johnson

That shot is the type of moment all players and fans live for.

Pure magic.

The level of execution displayed on that play developed into a nightly experience in the NBA, and during the 2016-2017 season with the Boston Celtics, Thomas took his talents to a new level.

I decided to highlight the ’16-’17 season because even though I.T has shown elite scoring his whole career, this year, he was seemingly unstoppable.

In the 2016-2017 season, Thomas averaged 28.9 points per game (3rd in NBA) on 46.3 percent shooting from the field, 37.9 percent from three, and 90.9 percent from the foul line.

Thomas willed the Celtics to the 1-Seed in the Eastern Conference (53-29 record) amid a season that saw him record his 2nd consecutive All-Star appearance and a place on the All-NBA 2nd team.

It was awesome to see how high he raised his game, but it was even more impressive once you understand the obstacles that he overcame that year. He also played so well in clutch moments he earned the nickname “The King in the 4th”.

Thomas played through grief, a hip injury, and losing his front tooth in game 1 of the Eastern Conference Semifinals. Even while dealing with all of that, he still rose to the occasion. Watching his 53-point game in honor of his late sister’s birthday is forever one of my favorite basketball memories—despite it coming at the expense of a win for my Wizards.

I could keep talking about the play of Isaiah Thomas, but the best way to understand how special the ’16-’17 season was, is to witness some of it for yourself.

Walking Bucket: Devin Booker

I was planning to have a long-winded post about how we need to watch more Devin Booker, but the only way to truly appreciate DBook is to watch the man work.

Booker is already in the upper echelon of NBA scorers, and game after game finds efficient ways to put the ball in the bucket.

And just in case you needed another reminder, Devin Booker has the highest single-game scoring output for active NBA players with 70 points in a game. He definitely would’ve liked the win, but landing on a list next to guys like Kobe and Wilt Chamberlain is a consolation better than most.

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Walking Buckets: 2020 NBA Draft Prospects

In the past week, we learned the NBA Draft process, like much of life, will face a few setbacks. The dates of the NBA Draft Combine, Lottery, and Draft are moving to a later undetermined date.

Even though we don’t know exactly where teams are picking, or the final opinions teams my have on prospects, there has been plenty of time to evaluate the talent in the current class. This class lacks some of the polish that we’ve seen from classes in the past few years, but with the NBA’s recent commitment to developing young players, the ceilings for many of the prospects seem reachable in comparison to past draft classes

Today, we’re taking a look at Anthony Edwards and James Wiseman.

Anthony Edwards (6’5 220lb Guard) Georgia

Michigan State vs. Georgia score: Bulldogs freshman Anthony ...

Georgia freshman Anthony Edwards has been talked about as a potential #1 pick. However, in this class, there isn’t a clear cut #1 at the moment. Without the traditional draft process timeline, it is hard to have a gauge of where these guys will call home in the NBA (especially without knowing which team holds the #1 selection).

In the midst of all of the uncertainty there is one consensus, the potential for Anthony Edwards is seemingly boundless.

The first thing that stands out for Edwards is his size for the guard position. At 6’5 225, he would already be one of the bigger guards in the league. He also is incredibly tough to stay in front of for opposing defenders, and he has all the tools offensively to make games infuriating for his matchup.

The main critique of his game is his shot selection and playmaking. In the few Georgia games I have watched this year, there were times where he would settle for jumpers and get tunnel vision at the basket. This shot selection led to Edwards shooting 40 percent from the floor and roughly 29 percent from three.

None of his issues draw from his basketball ability, and many of his decision-making skills will improve after he becomes a pro. He demonstrates a willingness to improve his game, and while I don’t expect him to make a Luka or Trae Young type of impact in his first two years, he has promise that can lead him to a successful career in the NBA.

James Wiseman (7’1 240lb Center) Memphis

James Wiseman leaves Memphis, will prepare for NBA Draft | Yardbarker

Right now, if the lottery odds hold, the Golden State Warriors would receive the first pick in the draft. With a need for frontcourt help, it makes all the sense in the world for the Warriors to take James Wiseman #1 overall.

If you read my last draft post, I mentioned Obi Toppin is a good fit for the Warriors. I stand by that statement, but I am adding that he is the right choice if Wiseman is off the board. (This assumes the Warriors have a pick other than #1)

Due to issues with NCAA eligibility, Wiseman had limited opportunities to show us what made him the #1 prospect in the nation in 2019.

In the games he played this season, we saw that he moved incredibly well for being 7’1, 235lbs. He also showed an understanding of where to be on the court at all times, and finished everything remotely around the bucket at a whopping 76 percent from the field.

This combination allows for him to feast on opposing teams offensively and defensively in the interior.

During his brief collegiate career, Wiseman averaged 19.7 points, 10.7 rebounds, and 3.0 blocks per game. In his 3rd regular-season game, he had 14 points and 12 rebounds in 22 minutes against Oregon, a team that finished ranked 13th in the country before the end of the NCAA basketball season.

The short glimpses are enough to decide that Wiseman should be able to help any NBA team as soon as the next season tips off.

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Walking Buckets: 2020 NBA Draft Prospects

Due to the postponement of major sports, and the release of “The Last Dance” Jordan documentary, basketball fans are stuck in the past. It can be great to reminisce about those who made us love the game, but now is the time to focus on players that can give fans the same feeling in the future.

The 2020 Draft is full of talent, and today I decided to focus on three of my favorite players who will hear the commissioner call their names on draft day.

Isaac Okoro (Auburn Tigers) 6’6 220lbs SF

Okoro’s stats at Auburn

Isaac Okoro will bring a high level of effort and intensity that is amplified by the high level of physicality he can bring to a game.

Offensively, he needs to refine his outside shot, but he showed great touch around the basket and is one of the most fluid athletes in the class. One area of his game I’ve seen analysts overlook is his passing ability. Okoro showed brilliant decision-making that shined in the open court during his time at Auburn.

Defensively, Okoro is a BEAST, and that should easily translate to the next level. He can guard multiple positions due to his combination of quickness and strength. Okoro is adept at anticipating where ball handlers are going and using his quick hands to help with steals and blocks.

When you combine his strengths on both sides of the floor, you have a complete prospect who, if developed correctly, has the making of a Swiss Army knife at the NBA level.

Obi Toppin 6’9 220lbs PF

Obi Toppin Stats, News, Bio | ESPN

Easily the best name in the draft class, Obi is a player fans enjoy watching because of how electrifying he can be. He’s a guy that often made ESPN for his in-game dunks, but his game has so much more than that.

On offense, Toppin was über efficient. He shot 63 percent from the field and 39 percent from 3. As a Power Forward, his ability to stretch the floor is one that has NBA teams salivating at his potential. He also finishes everything around the rim. With all of these tools, I am interested to see how an NBA offense is going to use him.

At Dayton, Toppin was a rim runner in transition. He would sprint down the floor and often was the recipient of a lob that forces one-on-one with a smaller defender. If this didn’t work, Dayton would reset their offense. Dayton kept great spacing and often took Toppin out of the paint and allowed for him to use his dribbling ability and off-ball movement to beat opponents. And if all that wasn’t enough, defenders would have to worry about him shooting a deep trey.

Depending on what the Warriors decide to do in the draft if he’s available, I could see them taking Toppin instead of Wiseman because of how well he fits the way they play. (They could find a center without going through the draft)

Defensively, Toppin relies on his vertical and wingspan to make life tough for his opponents. His lateral quickness is the weakness in his game. If he switches on pick & rolls, NBA guards will make him pay every time. If his offensive game isn’t as efficient as it is in college, it might be hard to keep him on the floor in certain matchups.

Overall, I’m not too worried about him on the defensive end, but it lowers his ceiling, and his strengths on the offensive end have the potential to outbalance his weaknesses.

LaMelo Ball 6’7 181lbs Guard

There was no way I was going to start talking about the 2020 draft class without mentioning LaMelo Ball. We’ve all been hearing plenty about him for years, and it’s time for him to test his talent against the best in the world.

LaMelo has some of the best handles in the draft class. He can go wherever he wants on the floor, and he shares the passing vision his brother Lonzo has. What separates LaMelo from Lonzo is how much the kid loves to shoot, and during his time playing in Australia, that love turned into 37 percent shooting from the field, and 24 percent from three.

He has plenty of confidence in his lightning-quick jumper. Combine that confidence with a few mechanical issues, and you have a perfect recipe for a volume shooter.

His percentages don’t alarm me as an 18-year-old playing against pros in the NBL. If he shows effort to improve his game all of his shortcomings are fixable, he has limitless potential as a true combo guard.

On defense, his strength can be an issue. Bigger and stronger offensive players can move him around with ease. His main asset at his position defensively is his size. His size can allow him to contest shots well. Also, I’ve read that his effort can sometimes wane on defense, but when he decides to play D, he can lock down on the perimeter.

LaMelo is a player that is worthy of the attention he’s been getting. All of the experience he has overseas is a bonus to whatever team drafts him. He should be ready to play day one in the NBA.

LaMelo Ball, Obi Toppin, and Isaac Okoro are only a few names in the NBA’s 2020 draft pool, and I’ll be back next week with a few more names you can get familiar with before draft day.

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Myles Powell, Walking Bucket

In March, the basketball world shines a spotlight on the NCAA Tournament, and basketball players across the country, especially those who play for smaller schools get their chance to erupt on the national scene. One player that caught my eye during the tournament was Seton Hall guard Myles Powell.

Powell is Bucket of the Week because his play raises the odds of victory for Seton Hall even if the rest of his team isn’t playing up to their usual strengths.

During the NCAA Tournament Round of 64, Seton Hall and Wofford squared off. While most of the country had its eyes on the Wofford 3-point barrage, led by NCAA All-Time 3-point field goal leader Fletcher Magee, I was impressed by the 27 point scoring effort that Powell was able to string together for Seton Hall.

In that matchup you could see that Powell was the only cog working in the Seton Hall offense that night, as he ended up being the only Pirate to reach double figures in the 68-84 loss.

Despite the result going against his favor and having a rough shooting night (10 for 25), it was a spectacle to see how he was able to keep fighting through the different looks the Wofford defense presented him and his scoring ability was the sole reason the Pirates were in the game until Wofford pushed away in the 2nd half.

Putting the ball in the basket is second nature for Powell, who averaged 23.1 points per game during the regular season and 26 per game in Big East Tournament play.

Powell has a great combination of shooting ability, handle and insane body control when attacking the basket. Guarding his combination of skill when he picks his spots effectively is a tall task for any defender, but his high energy on the defensive end of the floor and especially in passing lanes makes him a threat even on off shooting nights, so as long as he is on the court Seton Hall has a chance to beat any team on any night.

Bio from ESPN.com

Powell is returning to school for his senior year. If he can take his play from last year to an even higher level, Seton Hall could be primed to make a run in March.